Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened on the basis that it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline owing primarily to hunting pressure and habitat degradation.
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be widespread in very poorly documented areas, so might still be common in many places (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
The population is suspected to be in moderately rapid decline owing mainly to unsustainable levels of hunting and on-going habitat modification (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Ardeotis arabs occurs in Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The subspecies lynesi is known from Morocco, but there have been no definite records since 1962 and it is likely to be extinct (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Survey results and anecdotal observations from the more accessible and better monitored parts of its range suggest that it has undergone a rapid decline in recent decades owing to habitat destruction and hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Thiollay 2006). Vehicle-based transect surveys for raptors in the Sahel zone of Mali and Niger in 2004 failed to record any bustard species, despite A. arabs being frequently recorded along the same transects in 1971 and 1973 (Thiollay 2006). Bustards can be inconspicuous, which, coupled with the focus of these surveys on raptors, means that some birds were probably missed, and local hunters reported that bustard species were still extant in the surveyed areas; however, the difference between the survey results from the early 1970s and 2004 most likely indicates dramatic declines in these species (Thiollay 2006). The species was formerly quite common in the Lake Chad area of Nigeria; however, the species may now have been extirpated from the country and probably northern Cameroon, although surveys in the area have not been possible since the last review (P. Hall in litt. 2011, 2016).
It inhabits semi-desert and open grassy plains, arid bush, savanna and Acacia woodland, and is also found in cultivation in Yemen (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It feeds on insects and other invertebrates, as well as small vertebrates. It also takes seeds, fruits, succulent parts of plants and gum from Acacia. Its breeding season varies geographically according to local climatic patterns (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
The Sahel zone has seen only a limited impact from rapid human population growth in West Africa, along with low population densities and a predominantly traditional nomadic lifestyle; however, habitat degradation is occurring through the thinning of sparse non-regenerating Acacia woodlands, as well as the over-grazing of sub-desert steppes and excessive harvesting of firewood, which are followed by wind erosion and sand encroachment (Thiollay 2006). Overhunting, though, is probably the main cause of declines in this species. Off-take by local nomads has been augmented by the hunting activities of military and mining personnel and tourists (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Thiollay 2006). In Waza National Park, corrupt management resulted in high poaching pressure in the floodplain section of the park between 2007 and 2009, but this situation has since improved with the instalment of a new warden (R. Buij in litt. 2012). The population of A. arabs on the Arabian Peninsula is very small and likely to be in decline owing to hunting, habitat loss and the effects of pesticides (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is reportedly still fairly common in parts of western Yemen; however, the intensification of agriculture may pose a threat (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out regular surveys to monitor population trends throughout its range. Monitor rates of habitat degradation. Monitor hunting pressure. Conduct awareness-raising activities to help reduce hunting pressure. Increase the area of suitable habitat that is protected.
Text account compilers
Khwaja, N., Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J., Westrip, J., Butchart, S.
Borrow, N., Tiwari, J., Brouwer, J., Robinson, P., Buij, R., Roux-Vollon, C., Hall, P., Ndiaye, I., DuRose, K.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Ardeotis arabs. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/arabian-bustard-ardeotis-arabs on 29/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 29/09/2023.