Tetrax tetraxlittle bustard

Geographic Range

Little bustards are found in Spain, France, northern Morocco, the eastern coastal regions of Italy, the Sardinia island province of Italy, Turkey, eastern Ukraine, south western Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, and a small area in north western China. About half of the global population exists on the Iberian Peninsula. Birds from France and northern Iberian Peninsula will migrate to the southern parts of the Iberian Peninsula for the winter. ("Little Bustard (Tetrax Tetrax)", 2015; "Tetrax Tetrax", 2015; Delgado, et al., 2010)


Little bustard preferred habitat is dry, open grassland. Tetrax tetrax will also inhabit pasture lands due to its similarity of the original steppe-like habitat. In agriculture areas, there is a preference towards mid-height vegetation with medium density allowing for abundant food, ability to find mates, and ability to spot predators. ("Tetrax Tetrax", 2015; Salamolard and Moreau, 1999; Silva, et al., 2004)

Physical Description

Little bustards have a wingspan of 105 to 115 cm, length of 40 to 45 cm, and weigh 700 to 950 g. Plumage is primarily white with brown on the ventral side. Dorsal side is brown with white streaks and occasionally black spots . Males are colored bluish-grey on the chin. Black feathered necks with white V below chin and white collar on the dorsal side of the neck. White V on neck may be symmetrical or asymmetrical on the left or right side. White collar on dorsal side of neck can occur as continuous or interrupted). Females are white on the ventral side. On the dorsal side, from head to tail, they are brown with black tips. Legs and bills are light brown in color. ("A Field Guide to Birds of Armenia", 2016; Arroyo and Bretagnolle, 1999; "Tetrax Tetrax Little Bustard", 2016)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    700 to 950 g
    24.67 to 33.48 oz
  • Range length
    40 to 45 cm
    15.75 to 17.72 in
  • Range wingspan
    105-115 (low) cm
    (low) in


Little bustards most commonly utilize a polygynous mating system. However, they may also utilize a lek mating system where there is no male parental care and males congregate at sites for display. (Jiguet, et al., 2000)

Mating is once a year, with the average size clutch 3 to 4 eggs, although clutch sizes of 1 to 6 eggs have been observed. Eggs are incubated by the female for three weeks. Fledging occurs after about 45-50 days. Nests are formed in shallow ground depressions with grassy cover. (Arroyo, et al., 2010; "Little Bustard (Tetrax Tetrax)", 2015)

  • Breeding interval
    Little bustards breed once a year
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in the spring
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 6
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    3 weeks
  • Range fledging age
    45 to 50 minutes
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Males provide no parental. Chicks are precocial from birth, so they are relatively independent. All care that is provided for the chicks is done by the females. ("Little Bustard (Tetrax Tetrax)", 2015; Arroyo, et al., 2010)


Average lifespan for little bustards is about 10 years which is longer than similar sized, ground-nesting, plant eating birds. Females become sexually mature at 1 year of age whereas males become sexually mature at 2 years of age. (Morales, et al., 2005)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 years


Little bustards are a social species, particularly in the winter when they gather in flocks. They commonly move via a slow walk and will tend to run instead of fly when frightened or disturbed. Chicks are able to fly after about 20 days after hatching despite not fledging until 45-50 days old. ("Little Bustard (Tetrax Tetrax)", 2015)

Communication and Perception

During mating season, males attempt to attract mates through snort-like calls, foot stamping, beating of wings, and leaping in the air. Leaps range from 20-100cm. Calls, foot stamping, and beating of wings may be used in combination as well. When alone, chicks produce a soft whistling call. (Jiguet and Bretagnolle, 2001; Wolff, et al., 2002)

Food Habits

Little bustards are omnivorous feeding on green plants, seeds, invertebrates, and insects. Populations in agricultural lands show preference towards alfalfa. Insects are of particular importance during the mating season and rearing of chicks. ("Tetrax Tetrax Little Bustard", 2016)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


The most common cause of death for Tetrax tetrax is predation by red fox (Vulpes vulpes), hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and the Iberian imperial eagle (Aquilla adalberti). (Marcelino, 2014)

Ecosystem Roles

Little is known about the specific ecosystem role of Tetrax tetrax. They likely help with insect population control as well as seed dispersal for plants. They are also prey for predators. (Marcelino, 2014)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Little bustards are hunted for meat. (Marcelino, 2014)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Little bustards consume agriculture crops. They have also been known to frequently collide with vehicles, power lines, and aircraft. (Marcelino, 2014; Roth and Merz, 1997)

Conservation Status

Listed as near threatened on the 2015 IUCN Red List. Populations in the east are more of a concern due to smaller population numbers. ("Tetrax Tetrax", 2015)


Zach Schaefer (author), University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2016. "A Field Guide to Birds of Armenia" (On-line). Accessed March 09, 2017 at https://www.acopiancenter.am/boa.asp?id=119.

2015. "Little Bustard (Tetrax Tetrax)" (On-line). Accessed April 24, 2017 at http://www.arkive.org/little-bustard/tetrax-tetrax/.

2016. "Tetrax Tetrax Little Bustard" (On-line). Accessed March 09, 2017 at http://eol.org/pages/915400/details.

2015. "Tetrax Tetrax" (On-line). IUCN. Accessed March 09, 2017 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22691896/0.

Arroyo, B., V. Bretagnolle. 1999. Field Identification of Individual Little Bustard Tetrax Tetrax Males Using Plummage. Ardeola, 46/1: 53-60. Accessed March 09, 2017 at http://www.avibirds.com/pdf/K/Kleine%20Trap1.pdf.

Arroyo, B., C. Palacin, et al.. 2010. Species Action Plan for the Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax in the European Union. European Commision, 1: 6-12. Accessed April 25, 2017 at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/wildbirds/action_plans/docs/tetrax_tetrax.pdf.

Delgado, M., J. Traba, E. Garcia de la Morena, M. Morales. 2010. Habitat Selection and Density-Dependent Relationships in Spatial Occupancy by Male Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax. Ardea, 98/2: 185-194. Accessed April 26, 2017 at http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.5253/078.098.0208.

Jiguet, F., B. Arroyo, V. Bretagnolle. 2000. Lek mating systems: a case study in the Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax. Behavioural Processes, 51: 63-82. Accessed April 27, 2017 at http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0376635700001194/1-s2.0-S0376635700001194-main.pdf?_tid=f7d81686-2c28-11e7-8f43-00000aab0f02&acdnat=1493394196_d7857f0d75061e9f65ce137d275b5a9e.

Jiguet, F., V. Bretagnolle. 2001. Courtship behaviour in a lekking species: individual variations and settlement tactics in male little bustard. Behavioural Processes, 55: 107-118. Accessed April 27, 2017 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11871101_Courtship_behaviour_in_a_lekking_species_Individual_variations_and_settlement_tactics_in_male_little_bustard.

Marcelino, J. 2014. Survival analysis as a tool to model Little Bustard mortality rates in the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon University, 1: 10-36. Accessed April 25, 2017 at http://repositorio.ul.pt/bitstream/10451/18002/1/ulfc112261_tm_Joana_Marcelino.pdf.

Morales, M., V. Bretagnolle, B. Arroyo. 2005. Viability of the endangered Little bustard Tetrax tetrax population of western France. Biodiversity and Conservation, 14: 3135-3150. Accessed April 25, 2017 at http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/776/art%253A10.1007%252Fs10531-004-0382-z.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Flink.springer.com%2Farticle%2F10.1007%2Fs10531-004-0382-z&token2=exp=1493396533~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F776%2Fart%25253A10.1007%25252Fs10531-004-0382-z.pdf%3ForiginUrl%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Flink.springer.com%252Farticle%252F10.1007%252Fs10531-004-0382-z*~hmac=42ef85ed5f6dc664dd975bb2d30493cd6b2599413ac4ba2acc2e74c589849023.

Roth, H., G. Merz. 1997. Wildlife Resources: A Global Account of Economic Use. Berlin: Springer.

Salamolard, M., C. Moreau. 1999. Habitat selection by Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax in a cultivated area of France. Bird Study, 46: 25-33. Accessed April 25, 2017 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00063659909461112.

Silva, J., M. Pinto, J. Palmeirim. 2004. Managing landscapes for the little bustard Tetrax tetrax: lessons from the study of winter habitat selection. Biological Conservation, 117: 521-528. Accessed April 24, 2017 at http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0006320703003562/1-s2.0-S0006320703003562-main.pdf?_tid=c4621ed8-2c2c-11e7-b7c9-00000aacb361&acdnat=1493395824_b84809a2620dd5173fd53cf5fa9819a9.

Wolff, A., T. Dieuleveut, J. Martin, V. Bretagnolle. 2002. Landscape context and little bustard abundance in a fragmented steppe: implications for reserve management in mosaic landscapes. Biological Conservation, 107: 211-220. Accessed April 24, 2017 at http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0006320702000873/1-s2.0-S0006320702000873-main.pdf?_tid=3e35e62c-2c2d-11e7-839d-00000aab0f27&acdnat=1493396028_64878ca6bdfbb6db67f28752bb3ff3e2.