The Harrat al-Harrah reserve is currently the only area known in Saudi Arabia in which houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii may be found all year round, and in which breeding attempts still occur in most years. We examined the feasibility of obtaining estimates of houbara density in Harrat al-Harrah, and documented the pattern of seasonal changes in relative houbara abundance, relating this to abundance of crawling invertebrates and vegetation. Estimated densities of houbara ranged from 0·032 to 0·097/km 2 , which is low compared to estimates from other parts of the houbara's range. Variations in houbara numbers and flock sizes were not associated with concurrent changes in the availability of food resources. Seasonal changes in houbara abundance may be the result of movements by migrant houbara. Resource availability peaked in spring, when houbara numbers in the reserve were lowest, and when migrants were presumably taking advantage of similar resource peaks in their own breeding areas. These findings imply that encouragement of houbara populations in Harrat al-Harrah requires the protection or management of populations beyond the reserve, and probably even outside Saudi Arabia.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 1996
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