Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 39–52 | Cite as

Habitat use and mating system of the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata) in a semi-desertic area of North Africa: implications for conservation

  • Yves HingratEmail author
  • Michel Saint Jalme
  • Frédéric Ysnel
  • Eric Le Nuz
  • Frédéric Lacroix
Original Article


Studies of the movements and home-ranges of houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata undulata) showed sexual and seasonal differences in the use of space, with a polygynous mating system similar to an ‘exploded-lek’ or a ‘resource-defence-polygyny’, that remains undefined. We used the arthropod biomass as an index of the trophic quality of six defined habitats and we radio-tracked 7 females and 13 males to test whether sexual and seasonal variations in habitat use were related to resource availability, and to verify if critical resources for breeding females were monopolised by males. We analysed habitat selection in both sexes separately. We used the habitat type composition of buffer zones around radio-locations to study annual and seasonal habitat selection and to identify preferred habitats, using the chi-square goodness-of-fit test. Habitat use between sexes and between seasons were compared using MANOVA based on log-ratios of habitat proportions. During the year, and in each season, both sexes appeared to be significantly selective for habitats in comparison to their availability. But males avoided esparto grass, while females used all habitats. Habitat use differed between sexes in the breeding season, but not in the non-breeding season. In spring, when food resources were abundant and uniformly distributed in space, males preferred ‘temporarily flooded areas’ and females preferred ‘reg with tall perennials’ that offered both food and cover for brooding. Critical resources were not monopolised by males and the mating system fulfilled the definition of the ‘exploded-lek’. Leks are key sites for reproduction and should be considered as priority areas in further conservation plans.


Exploded-lek Seasonal variations Sexual differences Trophic resources 



The authors would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, founder and sponsor, and His Excellency Mohammed Al Bowardi, General Manager of the Office of Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for his supervision and guidance. We thank Jacques Renaud, Manager of the Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation, for his support. Special thanks are given to all involved in data collection during field surveys: Joseph Le Cuziat, Pierre-Marie Béranger, Pierrick Rautureau, Nicolas Orhant, Sébastien Caron, Olivier Fontaine, Ahmed El Houki and Houcine El Hlilou. We also thank Chalah Toni, and Alain Canard for their support and comments. Many thanks to Dr H. Britton for improving the English text and anonymous reviewers for suggestions to improve the manuscript. The capture of birds and invertebrate sampling were under permit from the “Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification”, kingdom of Morocco.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yves Hingrat
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michel Saint Jalme
    • 2
  • Frédéric Ysnel
    • 3
  • Eric Le Nuz
    • 1
  • Frédéric Lacroix
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EcologyEmirates Center for Wildlife PropagationMissourMorocco
  2. 2.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département d’Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 5173 MNHN-CNRS, Conservation des Espèces, Restauration et Suivi des populationsParc Zoologique de ClèresCleresFrance
  3. 3.ERT Biodiversité Fonctionnelle et Gestion des Territoires, bat. 25, Campus de BeaulieuUniversité de Rennes 1Rennes cedexFrance

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