Species: Ardeotis australis
Ardeotis australis is a large ground bird of grassland, woodland and open agricultural country across northern Australia. It is a mainly grey-brown bird, speckled with dark markings. It as a pale neck and black crown, with a slight crest and a white eye-brow. There are bold black and white markings on the wing. Legs are yellow to cream coloured. Newly hatched chicks are striped dark and light.
The Australian Bustard is one of Australia's largest birds. The male is up to 1.2 m (47 in) tall with a 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) wingspan. The average weight for males is 7.5 kg (17 lb). The female is quite a bit smaller at 80 cm (31 in) tall and 3 kg (6.6 lb) in weight but is similarly coloured. The largest male was shot just outside Victoria and was 14.5 kg (32 lb).
The Bustard is a careful bird, stepping slowly and holding its head and neck high. When disturbed, Australian Bustards often adopt a cryptic pose with neck erect and bill pointed skywards. They may stalk gradually away or run if alarmed, taking flight as a last resort. When it does fly, the flight is strong, with the ends of the wing feathers characteristically spread and up-curved. It may be found in small groups or singly.
Australian Bustards are nomadic following rain and feed. They are omnivorous, eating leaves, buds, seeds, fruit, frogs, lizards, and invertebrates. They walk slowly, picking at food items as they wander, usually at twilight and after dark.
Australian Bustards breed once a year. The males clear a display area, then inflate a large throat sac, producing a loud, deep roaring noise, while they strut around with their tails cocked high. The large, olive-green egg may be laid on bare ground or in grass, but usually where the parent bird has a good view of approaching predators. The female sits low, well camouflaged, and she incubates and cares for the young.
Australian Bustards were once hunted and shot for food and with habitat changes made by introduced mammals such as rabbits, cattle and sheep, they are now limited to inland areas. This species is listed as endangered in New South Wales and is listed as critically endangered on the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria.
This species is also called the Plains Turkey or Wild Turkey. Australian Aborigines generally refer to this bird as the Bush Turkey. It is an important food source for Aboriginal people from Central Australia, and is still eaten today. An Aboriginal cooking method is to singe the feathers on the fire, then pull out its guts and cook it in a hot fire. The white feathers of the bird are used for ceremonial purposes.
The Arrernte name for this bird is kere artewe. The Luritja name is kipara . The Larrakia name for this bird is danimila. There are important Dreaming stories associated with the Bush Turkey. A number of artists painting in the desert today paint Bush Turkey Dreaming. This means they have been given stories of the origins of the turkey in the Dreamtime and are entitled to tell this story and paint about it.