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Migration and range use of Asian Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii breeding in the Gobi Desert, China, revealed by satellite tracking


*Corresponding author.


Four adult male Asian Houbara Bustards Chlamydotis macqueenii were caught on their breeding grounds in the Gobi Desert of China and tracked by satellite from July 2000 for from 5 months to > 3.5 years. Wintering areas were identified for two individuals, one on the Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan border in the Amur-Darya valley, the second at the Iran/Turkmenistan border. One individual used the same wintering and breeding areas for three consecutive years. Overall departure dates from breeding grounds ranged from 29 September to 14 October, with arrival on wintering quarters from 23 October to 7 November. Birds left their wintering grounds between 2 and 21 March and reached their breeding areas between 11 and 21 April. The mean overall migration distance was 3935 km (sd = ± 229, n = 9). Houbara Bustards mainly followed steppe areas to migrate avoiding the highest elevations of the Himalayan massif and travelling 267 km/day on average. Pre-breeding migration lasted longer than post-breeding and included more and longer stopovers. The Taukum Desert and Jungar Basin are critical areas for migration of eastern Houbara populations. Breeding range, used for 5.5 months, was 274 km2 (sd = ± 53, n = 4), whereas wintering range, used for around 4 months a year, was 76 km2 (sd = ± 22, n = 3). Range use pattern appeared similar for Asian Houbara released in central Saudi Arabia, but differed from the African Houbara Bustard. More investigations are required to determine the effects of food availability and meteorological conditions on the migration pattern and on the use of stopovers by Asian Houbara Bustards.