Four great bustard chicks were recently spotted in the UK wild. This is an important event for conservationists, who began reintroducing this bird to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, six years ago. The Great Bustard Group has been taking eggs from Russia, breeding them, and releasing their young in the UK. This is the second year that the group has seen chicks being hatched in the wild.
Great bustards are currently deemed to be vulnerable to eradication, with approximately 35,000 birds calculated to exist. Most bustard species are considered either endangered, or at least with populations dwindling in size. They had been hunted to extinction in the UK during the 1800s, partially because of the bird's enormous size-- it is the world's heaviest flying bird, weighing up to 45 pounds. They also make beautiful trophy birds, with their colorful, large plumage. They are omnivores, eating a diet of seeds, insects, frogs, and beetles. The great bustard is the national bird of Hungary.
Hunting is no longer as dangerous to the species as it once had been. Now, as with most birds, their real threat comes from habitat loss and development. In particular, electricity lines pose a risk to the birds, who despite their size can fly quite quickly, becoming entangled and electrocuted by wires.