Reintroducing the great bustard to southern England
The overall objective of the project was to significantly increase the small population of great bustards on Salisbury Plain over the duration of the LIFE+ project - to start to establish a self-sustaining population in the UK.
- Significantly increase the population of great bustards on Salisbury Plain
- Detailed monitoring to improve understanding of the interaction between released bustards and their environment
- Development of a long-term strategy to guide future work on great bustards in the project area and elsewhere in the UK
- Re-establishment of the great bustard as an integral part of the UK avifauna
- Translocation of at least 20 juvenile great bustards from Russia each year
- Management of the release area to maximise its value to great bustards year-round, and establishment of at least one new release area
- Secure extensive areas of suitable habitat for great bustard across a wider area through the development and promotion of targeted options for inclusion within agri-environment schemes
- Protection of bustards and their nests and eggs from threats such as disturbance, egg-collecting and predation
- Communication and dissemination actions undertaken to develop a high-profile for the project both in local communities and in key target areas
- Links developed with projects targeting great bustards elsewhere in the EU to allow the multi-way exchange of experiences and lessons learned
- Sep 2010 - LIFE project began.
- May 2011 - Two female great bustards nested and the project worked with the farmer to minimise disturbance of the nests. Both hatched successfully, but unfortunately no chicks fledged. No nests hatched during the following two breeding seasons.
- Sep 2011 - Twenty-nine young bustards were released, some at a new release site for the first time. Four of these were recruited to the adult population.
- Jun 2012 - For the first time, great bustard eggs were imported from Russia rather than chicks.
- Sep 2012 - Eleven young bustards were released. Post-release survival at the new release site was far higher than observed in previous years (100 per cent to 90 days), but followed by dispersal. At least two birds reached France and only one juvenile was recruited to the adult population.
- 2013 - No birds were released, as work took place to change the source population from Russia to Spain.
- May 2014 - Fifty-four eggs were imported from Spain and reared in the UK.
- Jun 2014 - Five females nested, and two nests were thought to have hatched, but no young fledged.
- Aug 2014 - Thirty-three great bustards were released, the largest number achieved in the ten years of the project.
- Nov 2014 - LIFE project ended. Please see greatbustard.org/life_project/ for more details.
- Spanish great bustards were genetically more similar to the former population in the UK than had previously been believed.
- Spanish great bustards show less of a long-distance migration tendency than the Russian population.
- A larger number of eggs could be transported from Spain, which has by far the largest great bustard population in the world, with recent population increases observed. As Spain is an EU country, the chicks would not have to endure a 30-day quarantine period once hatched.
- Importing eggs rather than chicks, removing the need for a stressful 48-hour journey at two months old and allowing release to take place earlier in the year.
- Changes in diet to promote better body and feather condition.
- Rearing facilities adapted, with the benefit of reduced quarantine requirements, to provide more light, space and access to natural habitat.
- Rearing suits allowed greater contact with chicks during rearing without risk of birds becoming tame, and allowed the rearing process to extend beyond release, with supplemental feeding post-release for the first time.
- Soft release techniques used to encourage released birds to stay as a group around their release site.
- New release sites with lower predator populations and therefore reduced mortality due to predation immediately after release.
- Use of temporary electrified netting to protect release sites and reduce the risk of collision.
- Change in source population from highly migratory Russian population to shorter distance migrants from Spain.
PDF, 186Kb. 1 March 2016Advisory leaflet
PDF, 1.13Mb. 1 March 2016Information board
PDF, 597Kb. 1 March 2016Project area map
PDF, 175Kb. 1 March 2016Scientific paper 1
PDF, 783Kb. 1 March 2016Scientific paper 2
PDF, 1.03Mb. 1 March 2016Scientific paper 3
PDF, 5.7Mb. 1 March 2016Year 1 summary
PDF, 7.67Mb. 1 March 2016Year 2 summary
PDF, 2.05Mb. 1 March 2016Year 3 summary