Australian bustards are a large ground bird. The male is up to 1.2m tall with a 2.3m wingspan. The average weight for males is 6.2kg. The female is quite a bit smaller at 80cm tall, with a 1.8m wingspan and an average body mass of 3.2kg. The back, wings and tail are dull brown, mottled black and white markings on the wing coverts. The neck and head appear dull white and the crown black. Legs are yellow to cream coloured.
The Australian bustard is found in grasslands, woodlands and open agricultural country across northern Australia and southern New Guinea.
It’s diet consists of seeds, fruit, centipedes, insects, molluscs, lizards, young birds and small rodents.
Australian Bustards breed once a year. When mating, the males clear a display area, then inflate a large throat sac, producing a loud, deep roaring noise, while they strut around with their tails cocked high. The large, olive-green egg may be laid on bare ground or in grass, but usually where the parent bird has a good view of approaching predators. The female sits low, well camouflaged, and she incubates and cares for the young.
The Bustard has a ‘snooty’ appearance as it walks sedately along, holding its head and neck high. When disturbed, Australian bustards often adopt a cryptic pose with neck erect and bill pointed skywards. They may stalk gradually away or run if alarmed, taking flight as a last resort.
The Australian bustard remains relatively common and widespread across most of northern Australia, but its range appears to have contracted in the south-east of the country during the last century. This is thought to be due to hunting (now illegal except for indigenous Australians), feral predators such as pigs and foxes and habitat destruction. It is considered endangered in NSW, but ICUN considers it “least concern” for it’s overall distribution.