The heaviest flying bird in India is the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps). It is in fact one of the largest flying birds in the world.
The bird is tall, long-legged with an outstretched neck whitish in appearance. The wings are grey to brown and black. There is also a black crown on the forehead, a prominent one in males.
The average height of the male and female birds of the species, is 90-130 cm which is almost the height of a 6 year old child.
But the real factor that makes the Great Indian Bustard, the heaviest flying bird is of course its weight. The average weight of this bird is 15 kg. Males may weigh a little more than females with their average weight being about 18 kg.
Most members of the Bustard family are smaller than the Indian bustard. In fact, only the Great Indian Bustard and the Kori Bustard of Africa are similar in size. This African cousin of the Indian Bustard is the world’s heaviest flying bird.
Great Indian Bustard is a grassland species. It builds its nest on the ground and the females usually lay just one egg. The presence of this handsome bird represents the health of the grassland ecosystem. However they are becoming rarer every day and are today one of the most threatened bird species in the world.
Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states. However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled. In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its numbers are declining.
Today, the bustard can be seen in five Indian states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
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