Considered one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, Kori Bustard males weigh as much as 18kg or even more. They have a wingspan of up to 2.75m, and stand up to 1.2 meters tall. Females however are much lighter and seldom exceed 7kg in weight.
Kori Bustards occur in flat, open, dry habitats and have an omnivorous diet that includes carrion, seeds, berries, flowers, eggs, insects and small vertebrates, often following fires and herds of game to catch flushed prey. Their Afrikaans name, “Gompou“, comes from their liking for Acacia-tree gum. Where water is easily available, Kori Bustards will drink regularly. They normally forage alone or in small groups, but are sometimes seen in bigger groups numbering up to 40 in areas of abundant food or at waterholes. These bustards are mostly terrestrial, taking to the wing only when necessary and even preferring to escape threats by running or hiding, though they are strong flyers once airborne. They forage during the cooler hours of early morning and late afternoon, preferring to spend the heat of the day in the shade. Nesting occurs in the warmer months, when usually two eggs are laid in shallow hollows on the ground. Following an elaborate courtship display, males attempt to mate with as many females as possible, and play no part in incubating the eggs (which lasts for about 25 days) or rearing the precocial chicks. Large raptors and big mammalian predators prey on both adult and young Kori Bustards.
Ongoing declines in the Kori Bustard’s population across its range, which stretches from Ethiopia and The Sudan to South Africa’s Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North-West, Northern, Eastern and Western Cape Provinces, has prompted the IUCN to raise its conservation status to “Near Threatened“. The South African population is estimated at between 2,000 and 5,000, with hundreds dying annually due to collisions with powerlines. The threats of illegal hunting and habitat degradation is placing further pressure on their numbers, and the species may well soon be confined only to conservation areas like the Kruger National Park, where the population is estimated around 250 adult birds. They can also be found in the Mapungubwe, Mokala and Pilanesberg National Parks.