Action: Artificially incubate and hand-rear bustards in captivity
- A review of a houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii captive breeding programme in Saudi Arabia found that there was no difference in survival between artificially and parentally incubated eggs.
- A second review of the same programme found that removing eggs from clutches as they were laid increased the number laid by females.
Artificial incubation involves removing eggs from incubating parents and using an incubator to hatch them. Techniques can be extremely complex, with precision humidity and temperature control and turning of the eggs to ensure correct development Hand-rearing can be used with chicks from artificially-incubated eggs or with chicks removed from parents after hatching and involves manually feeding chicks until independence. Both techniques can be used to encourage parents to produce more offspring, or when naturally-raised chicks and eggs have low survival.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A review of a houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii captive breeding programme in Saudi Arabia (1) between 1989 and 1993 found that removing eggs from females to artificially incubate them increased the number of eggs produced from one to four eggs/year for wild birds to nearly nine eggs/female. This study is also discussed in ‘Use captive breeding to increase or maintain populations’, ‘Use artificial insemination in captive breeding’ and ‘Release captive-bred individuals’.
A review (van Heezik & Ostrowski 2001) of the same programme as Seddon et al. 1995 found that, between 1992 and 1999, there was no significant difference in survival between artificially incubated eggs and those hatched by parental incubation, once breeding experience of mothers, year of lay and the cohort of birds that the mother came from were taken into account. A total of 1,012 eggs were studied. This study is also discussed in ‘Use captive breeding to increase or maintain populations’.
- Seddon P.J., Saint Jalme M., van Heezik Y., Paillat P., Gaucher P. & Combreau O. (1995) Restoration of houbara bustard populations in Saudi Arabia: developments and future directions. Oryx, 29, 136-142
- van Heezik Y. & Ostrowski S. (2001) Conservation breeding for reintroductions: assessing survival in a captive flock of houbara bustards. Animal Conservation, 4, 195-201