Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) Sisão

A pheasant sized resident species that is widespread throughout Portugal; Little Bustards are essentially a steppe bird and thus flourish on the Alentejo Plains, especially near Castro Verde, but are also seen near the coast in more intensively farmed surroundings. Breeding success depends upon the male territories containing ground beetles in sufficient numbers which the chicks eat exclusively during the first two weeks of life, and territories are defended fiercely with displays where the male repeatedly jumps with outstretched wings.

Plumage is white below and cryptic and successful camouflage above except for breeding males who sport a black neck with a white band above and below. Very duck-like in flight with a shallow and rapid wing beat especially noticeable during the Spring. An adaptation to one of their primaries leads to a whistling sound in flight, and that, together with their "lady's fart" call, is the sound of Spring on the Plains. Best way to find them is to look for little black pegs in the ground; if you see one chances are you've found a male.

They are gregarious for the majority of the year, so the spring, when they spread out into breeding territories and males become conspicuous, is the easiest time to find them. However, if you're lucky enough to come across them during other times of the year and they take wing you'll be in for a treat, as a Little Bustard flock in flight is a joy to behold.

Birding in Portugal

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