Birds – Stanley Bustard

Africa south of the Sahara may be regarded as the head-quarters of the present group, and although we have not space to mention all, we may select a sufficient number to convey a fair idea of them. Thus the genus Neotis, which includes five species, may be known by the absence of the whisker-like feathers on the cheeks and by the long bill exceeding the length of the middle toe with its claw. Of these the Stanley Bustard (N. cera), a bird about thirty-eight inches long, is found in South and East Africa. It is ashy black above, much waved and streaked, with the sides of the face, nape, sides of the neck, and entire lower parts white, while the top of the head, wings, and tail are white with black bands. In South Africa they are found on the plains in the interior away from the seacoast, feeding on seeds, insects, and small reptiles, preferring ground that has recently been burnt in which to hunt for their food. They are very shy yet stupid birds, for even where there is no cover, “if the sportsman take a large circle round and round, gradually nearing the bird, the Bustard will frequently squat down with his head to the ground, thinking he will be passed unnoticed, when the sportsman may run up to within easy shooting distance.” At the “showing-off” season the males parade before the females, expanding the throat, uttering a loud booming noise, which can be heard at a great distance. Of the nest, Mr. Ayres says: “These birds frequently breed among the rocks and stones on the top of some hill; the nest is merely a slight excavation scratched in the ground with perhaps a handful of grass. The eggs are two in number, and the old bird sits so close that she will almost let one tread on her before she rises.”