Bird of the week – Week 6 : Kori bustard

The most impressive thing about the Kori bustard is its size. It is big. Really big. Not as big as a Common ostrich, admittedly, but the difference is that the Kori can fly; in fact it may well be the largest flying bird in the world. The males are up to 1.5 metres in length and can weigh as much as 19 kg. That’s about 1,200 times heavier than a canary.

Kori bustard

Their weight, though, does make them a little reluctant to fly, and they are most commonly seen walking sedately through the long grass of the veld. Even when disturbed they will often walk away quickly. When the Kori does fly, it often uses a running take-off, although it can take off from a standstill.

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They are solitary or in pairs when breeding; but may be in larger groups at other times. The males display with their necks inflated, their tails raised over their backs and fanned. These polygynous birds don’t make a nest, with the clutch of 1 or 2 eggs laid in a scrape on the bare ground. They are fairly wide spread in Southern Africa, although they are more common in the drier West and are fairly common in Namibia and Botswana. In the Savuti area of Botswana the Southern carmine bee-eater reportedly uses the Kori as a roost as it hawks insects that are disturbed as the Kori walks through the grassland.  This association appears to be less common in other parts of Southern Africa.

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The Kori’s diet consists of insects, small vertebrates, seeds, and carrion. The fact that they also eat gum from Acacia trees provides the reason for their Afrikaans name – “Gompou”, which means “Gum bustard”.

Kori bustard

The scientific name for the Kori bustard is Ardeotis kori; ardeotis being from the Latin “ardea”, meaning a heron or bustard and kori being a corruption of the Setswana word “kgôri”, being the Setswana name for the Kori bustard.

And of course you know this limerick, don’t you?

The bustard is  an exquisite fowl

With minimal reason to scowl

For he escaped what would be

Illegitimacy

By the grace of a fortunate vowel.

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