If you plan on exploring the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain don’t be surprised if you see a very unusual site – a Great Bustard!
What is a Great Bustard?
It is Salisbury Plain’s very own Big Bird, with the male amongst the heaviest living flying animals.
The average lifespan is around 15 years, adult females can outrun foxes and an adult male can weigh between 5.8 and 18 kilograms.
In the UK, the Great Bustard became nationally extinct when the last bird was shot in 1832. Although it can be found in other areas of Europe and Asia, it is now on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and European populations have been in long-term decline.
Return to Wiltshire
In 2004 the iconic species returned to the Wiltshire landscape when the Great Bustard Group (GBG) initiated a 10-year trial reintroduction on Salisbury Plain with the main aim of establishing a self-sustaining population in the UK.
Originally the group sourced birds rescued from agricultural operations in Russia, with a plan to release 20 per year on the Plain’s grassland area, however, it became apparent that the Russian birds would not be a viable source for the project, as they expressed too strong an instinct to migrate.
It was decided in 2013 to use Spain as a donor population instead. The first release using Spanish Great Bustards came in 2014 and saw 33 birds released with a survival rate of over 50% through the first winter. This is a much higher figure than was achieved when using chicks imported from Russia.
Now, the GBG has become the only successful reintroduction of Great Bustards anywhere in the world, with a self-sustaining population of around 100 birds.
How to find out more
If you want to know more, and even get a glimpse of the great bird itself, The Great Bustard Group runs site tours where they release the chicks. They also offer the chance to adopt a bird and help support their project further.
Find all the details on their website.
Salisbury Plain isn't just home to the mighty Great Bustard, there are many different species of birds and other wildlife to see. Why not head out to explore for the day. We have more information here.