Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The European population is estimated at 4,200-6,200 pairs, which equates to 8,400-12,400 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms <5% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 170,000-250,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.
The global population is suspected to be stable overall however decreases are suspected in parts of its range and increases have been observed elsewhere (de Juana et al. 2015). The Spanish population is estimated to have increased strongly in the short-term while populations in France and Turkey are reported to be decreasing and fluctuating respectively (BirdLife International 2015).
The species inhabits steppe habitats requiring dry, open grassland plains without trees or high bushes (de Juana et al. 2015). It avoids dense scrub, tall crops and hilly areas and is typically found below 1,000 m (Madge and McGowan 2002). It often associates with the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) particularly in winter (Martín et al. 2010b). It lays between April and August (Madge and McGowan 2002). The nest is a slight scrape or natural depression in the ground and is usually unlined (Madge and McGowan 2002). It mainly feeds on seeds, but to a lesser extent also green shoots and leaves (de Juana et al. 2015). The species is sedentary and nomadic in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to western Afghanistan and mostly migratory in Turkestan and more northerly parts of its range (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005).
Within Europe this species is threatened by changes in agricultural practices (Madge and McGowan 2002). In Spain, 55% of disturbance to the species came from raptors, although mammalian predators and man were also sources of disturbance (Ferns and Hinsley 1994).
Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I. Due to its close positive interactions with Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), conservation measures for one species are likely to benefit the other (Martín et al. 2010b).
Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's range within Europe only: Low-impact farming methods should be promoted to help preserve and expand suitable habitat. Key sites should be protected to help minimise disturbance. Monitoring programmes should be set up to record species's trends and research into the species's habitat requirements and population dynamics be undertaken.
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Pterocles alchata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2021.