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Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard Feather Collection

The harvesting of kori bustard feathers for use by fishermen in fly making is one of several human activities causing an accelerated decline in the wild population of this majestic bird. Providing molted kori bustard feathers to consumers for free undermines the economic incentive for people killing the birds—recently categorized as a threatened species—for their feathers.

As a participant in the Kori Bustard Species Survival Plan (SSP) and host to a pair of kori bustards at Franklin Park Zoo, Zoo New England participates in the Kori Bustard Molted Feather Project, a program in which the birds’ molted (shed) feathers are distributed at no cost to fly fishermen for use in making their lures. Not all conservation efforts require monetary support!

Let the feathers fly

Kori bustards (Ardeotis kori) are native to southern Africa, where they can be found on grassy savannas foraging for insects, small mammals, snakes and seeds. With an average male weight of 30 pounds, they’re the largest flying bird in the world, though because of their size they spend much of their time on the ground.

Last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources classified the kori bustard as a “near threatened” species, noting that the bird was undergoing a somewhat rapid population decline due to increased collisions with power lines, hunting and habitat degradation. One reason for the decline of kori bustard populations is increased hunting to obtain their feathers. Salmon fly fishers, in particular, seek these feathers because their physical characteristics are so well-suited for use in fishing lures. In fact, demand for the feathers skyrocketed to the point where a single feather was being sold for $500.

In response to the demand for kori bustard feathers, in 2005 the Kori Bustard Species Survial Plan (SSP) launched the Kori Bustard Molted Feather Project with fly fishing enthusiast John McLain. Under the program, participating zoos-- including Zoo New England-- gather their molted kori bustard feathers and send them to McLain, who fills customer orders at his website. McClain encourages recipients of the feathers to donate to the non-profit Friends of the Kori Bustard SSP, which was created as part of the project to raise funds for kori bustard research and conservation.

Kori Bustards at Franklin Park Zoo

Get to know Franklin Park Zoo’s kori bustards Jazzy & M’guu on your next visit. M’guu was received as an egg from the Smithsonian National Zoo and was hatched and reared at Zoo New England in 2003.

Male kori bustards grow to an impressive size, standing about 4.5 feet and weighing 30 pounds on average. Females stand about 2.25 feet and can weigh up to 13 pounds. The bird’s coloring is mottled grayish-buff with dark brown irregular lines and a black crest. The kori bustard’s chin, throat and neck are creamy white mixed with black bands. The kori bustard has just three forward-pointing toes, which are short, broad and well adapted for running, which they prefer to flying. Kori bustards have no hind toe and therefore are not adapted for perching.

When alarmed or threatened, both males and females will give a loud bark or perform what’s known as the "shock display," in which the bird bows forward, lifts its tail feathers, and spreads its wings in order to appear larger to a potential predator.

For more on kori bustards, visit our Franklin Park Zoo Animals page.

What you can do

Spread the word! Tell fly fishing enthusiasts you know about the Kori Bustard Molted Feather Project.

When you donate to Zoo New England, you support all of our conservation work, including our involvement in the Kori Bustard Feather Project.