Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami


Justification of Red List Category
This species is estimated to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to hunting pressure and conversion of grassland habitat for agriculture, and it is therefore classified as Near Threatened; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common in the Central African Republic and parts of Uganda (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The species's range has contracted in Kenya and South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and there have been declines in Sudan and Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor 2015), although this is not consistent throughout South Africa with increases in Eastern Cape and Western Cape, and decreases in southern KwaZulu-Natal (Hofmeyr 2012). Overall the species is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid global population decline owing to hunting pressure and conversion of grassland habitat for agriculture.

Distribution and population

This species occurs in southern Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Angola, Malawi, Zambia (a stronghold), Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana (where it is very scarce [Hancock 2008, S. J. Tyler in litt. 2013, Tyler 2013]), the extreme southern tip of Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Although very widely distributed, it has suffered population declines through much of its range (Urban et al. 1986). The Rift Valley in Kenya was formerly regarded as its stronghold, but there are now probably fewer than 300 in all of Kenya (L. Bennun in litt. 1999), and its range has contracted (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is now regarded as the most endangered of its family in Kenya (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). There have been few recent records in Niger (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012) and the population in the rest of West Africa is also reported to be faring poorly owing to large human populations (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012). Fewer than 10 records of the species have been made in Gambia since 1979 (Barlow et al. 1997). 

It is considered common in Central African Republic, but there have been declines in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and Uganda (Carswell et al. 2005). It is considered very scarce in Botswana (Penry 1994, Hancock 2008) and Ethiopia (Ash and Atkins 2009). In South Africa, studies indicate that the species has decreased in abundance throughout much of its range in the past few decades (Hofmeyr 2012), however in the Western Cape it may have adapted to modified habitats and numbers have increased (Hockey et al. 2005). In other parts of its range the species appears to be doing relatively well, for example Zambia is considered a stronghold for the species (Dowsett et al. 2008) and more than 400 birds were detected in a sample of just 6% of the 77,360 km2 Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (at least half of the reserve supports suitable habitat) in Chad (Wacher et al. 2012).


Found up to 3,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It inhabits grasslands, grassy Acacia-studded dunes, fairly dense shrubland, light woodland, farmland, crops, dried marsh and arid scrub plains, also grass-covered ironstone pans and burnt savanna woodland in Sierra Leone and high rainfall sour grassveld, planted pastures and cereal croplands in fynbos in South Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It feeds on insects, small vertebrates and plant material (Collar 1996, T. Dodman in litt. 1999). The breeding season is variable and consequently unclear, perhaps indicating opportunism in reaction to rainfall (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The clutch-size is one or two (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


Hunting is the primary cause of declines across the Sahel (Newby 1990) and throughout West Africa (Turner and Goriup 1989, Collar 1996, P. Hall in litt. 1999). In eastern and southern Africa, hunting is also a problem (Parker 1999), but the main threat appears to be conversion of grassland and light woodland to agriculture (Collar 1996, Turner and Goriup 1989). Collisions with power lines may be a significant threat in parts of the range, particularly South Africa (Hofmeyr 2012). Accidental poisoning by agricultural pesticides may also be a threat to birds foraging on farmland (S. J. Tyler in litt. 2013). Climate change poses a potential threat through shifting habitats and severe droughts (Hofmeyr 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The population in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland is considered Vulnerable (Taylor 2015), and Critically Endangered in Uganda (WCS 2016).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to establish an estimate for the entire population. Carry out regular surveys to measure population trends. Monitor the rate of habitat loss, especially in Kenya and South Africa. Test the use of alternatives to reduce hunting, such as ecotourism. Protect habitat and enforce hunting bans in reserves. Research and work to reduce power-line collisions in South Africa for this and other bustard species. Train landowners in bustard-friendly management techniques (Hofmeyr 2012).


Male 100cm, female 80cm. Large bustard with grey crown bordered black, white supercilium, whitish-grey face and black line running back from eye. Grey foreneck; hindneck orange-brown. A large black and white patterned panel is visible on the folded wing. Highly distinctive. Voice Mostly silent but produces guttural barking call and male produces deep booming (Collar and Garcia 2013).


Text account compilers
Evans, M., Martin, R, O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Ashpole, J & Westrip, J.

Bennun, L., Brouwer, J., Carswell, M., Dodman, T., Dowsett, R., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Hall, P., Murphy, P., Tyler, S., Wacher, T., Hogg, J. & Hofmeyr, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Neotis denhami. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 06/07/2022.