Nubian Bustard Neotis nuba


Justification of Red List category
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to intense hunting in parts of its range, in combination with other factors. However, if further information shows that the decline is rapid, the species would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as fairly common (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
There are few data on population trends, but levels of hunting pressure indicate that it is probably declining at a moderately rapid rate.

Distribution and population

Neotis nuba has a disjunct range across the Sahelian and, marginally, Saharan zones of Africa. The western subspecies N. n. agaze has populations in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and western Chad, and the eastern subspecies N. n. nuba has a single population in eastern Chad and Sudan (Johnsgard 1991). N. n. agaze was formerly common in Mali and Mauritania and probably remains common only in Chad and Niger, while N. n. nuba is described as rare and little known in Sudan (Urban et al. 1986, Nikolaus 1987). Vehicle-based transect surveys for raptors in the Sahel zone of Mali and Niger in 2004 failed to record any bustard species, despite N. nuba 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 this species (Thiollay 2006). Several hundred kilometres of vehicle-based transects have been conducted recently in Mauritania in search of N. nuba, without any success by January 2012 (K. DuRose in litt. 2012). 


It occupies desert fringes, semi-arid scrub and savanna where it feeds on large insects, as well as grass seeds, leaves and fruits (Urban et al. 1986).


There is little information on the current status of this species or its population trends. However, it apparently suffers from widespread hunting, which may now be causing substantial declines in parts of its range (Urban et al. 1986, Johnsgard 1991). Over-hunting is probably the main cause of declines in the bustard species of Sahelian West Africa. Off-take by local nomads has been augmented by the hunting activities of military and mining personnel, as well as tourists (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Thiollay 2006). Civil war in Chad in the 1980s, and recent unrest in Sudan, is likely to have increased local hunting pressure because of the number of weapons available. Other threats to N. nuba may include the intensification of land use, disturbance by off-road vehicles, overgrazing, disturbance by livestock, firewood collection and commercial wood collection (J. Brouwer in litt. 1999). Although the Sahel zone has seen only a limited impact from West Africa’s rapid human population growth, along with low population densities and a predominantly traditional nomadic lifestyle, habitat degradation is occurring through the thinning of sparse non-regenerating Acacia woodlands, as well as the overgrazing of sub-desert steppes and excessive harvesting of firewood, which are followed by wind erosion and sand encroachment (Thiollay 2006). Protected Areas in the region where this species occurs may be under threat from oil exploration (Meynier 2009, van Vliet and Magrin 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Regularly monitor the species at selected sites across its range to determine trends. Research the extent and nature of the threat caused by hunting. If sensible and feasible, regulate hunting. Ensure complete protection of important populations of both subspecies.


Male 70 cm, female 50 cm. Upperparts tawny buff, with faint vermiculations. Male has a grey neck with paler head. Striking black chin, throat and crown sides bordering a tawny cap. Whitish below. Female is smaller with less black on the chin and throat.


Text account compilers
Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Taylor, J., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.

Brouwer, J., Dowsett, R., DuRose, K. & Wacher, T.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Neotis nuba. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/nubian-bustard-neotis-nuba on 29/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 29/11/2023.