Kori Bustard

Basic facts you need to know about Botswana’s national bird – the Kori Bustard

KORI BUSTARD (common English name)

Kgori (Setswana; note that the English name is derived from the Setswana name, one of only 2 birds in the world were this is the case!)

  • Taxonomy: Kori Bustard occur as two taxonomically distinct populations: Ardeotis kori kori in southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa; extinct in Swaziland) and Ardeotis kori struthiunculus in East Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania).
  • Conservation importance: It is thought to be experiencing range-wide decline, and recent work by a BirdLife Botswana researcher (Dr Kabelo Senyatso) assessing its Africa-wide decline showed that it is globally Near Threatened, and not Least Concern as previously thought; see Senyatso, KJ, Collar, NJ, & Dolman, PM. (2012). Assessing range-wide conservation status change in an unmonitored widespread African bird species. Diversity & Distributions. 19(6): 1–14.  DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2012.00909.x .
  • Population number: Unknown number of mature individuals, both in Botswana and across Africa, but still common where undisturbed. Unfortunately, the Kori Bustard is not only illegally hunted for food but also trapped for the live bird trade.
  • Size: The world’s heaviest flying bird. Males are around 120 – 150 cm tall and weigh 10.9 kg to 19 kg, while the considerably smaller females are about 105 – 120 cm tall and tip the scales at a more modest but still large 5.9 kg. Wingspan is 220 – 250 cm.
  • Description: Largely a brown, black, buff and white bird. Has a black and grey crown and long, pale-coloured legs. Despite its size, the Kori Bustard blends remarkably well into its surroundings. Although the sexes differ greatly in size, their plumage is largely the same.
  • Food: Omnivorous. Eats a wide range of food, from berries, bulbs and seeds to snails, insects, birds’ eggs and nestlings, rodents, lizards and snakes.
  • Reproduction: Usually one, and sometimes two or three eggs in a shallow scrape on the ground; laying dates are mainly October to February
  • Habitat: Mainly grass or scrub-covered open country, and it is a flagship of enormous importance in southern and eastern Africa’s grasslands. One of the widely sought-after birds by bird tourists in Botswana and the sub-region.
  • Importance in Tswana culture: common character within folklore and idioms e.g. (a) Kgori e bona mae, lerapo ga e le bone, and (b) Bana ba kgori monokana o sele, tshika fa e ya baneng e a kgaogana. Traditionally, it was also reserved only for chiefs and/or elders, and work by BirdLife Botswana researchers suggests that this is because of the belief that if one ate it ‘untreated’ it would cause mental illness.

Further information on this magnificent birds can be found through the following links:
McColaugh, D. (2015, March). Botswana's New Official National Symbols. Familiar Chat, 1 - 3 
BirdLife International data zone