Great Bustard Winter Census 2022 | Salonta, Romania

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20 January 2022

Even though we had to wait for the fog to lift to be able to see them, it was worthwhile. We are pleased to inform you that Sunday, 16 January, we registered 37 Great Bustards near Salonta.

Great Bustard Winter Census 2022 | Salonta, Romania

As a rule, in January, we do a Great Bustard count. Each year experts in every bustard populated area within Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia) choose a date for the Great Bustard Census. The count is carried out simultaneously to avoid the double-counting of the possible "wandering" individuals.

Studies confirm that the cold season may awaken in bustards the migration instinct. Despite the cold weather and the persistent snow cover, the bustards remained in the Salonta area, and we managed to spot 37 individuals. Bustards gather in larger groups during winter, and they usually move and feed together. By doing this, they increase their chance of survival.

Unlike most birds, Great Bustards lack the uropygial gland (or oil gland), which could ensure waterproof plumage. Snow, therefore, may compromise their thermal insulation and their capacity to fly. 

They can get their feathers wet at night (when motionless) from the snow that melts under them, and thus they lose heat.

It's no accident that we see bustards near herds of deer. Snow limits the birds' access to food as they are unable to scrape it away and get to the oilseed rape leaves - their main food source in winter. But that's where the deer come in.

Winter may seem harsher than the other seasons, but in the world of the bustards, there is no easy season. Beyond the conservation (moving overhead power lines underground) and monitoring (yearly censuses and occasional observations) activities, we are aware bustards may face dangers not just in every season but every day. And it makes us appreciate even more this small and unique population of Great Bustards of Romania.


Text and photos: "Milvus Group" Association