Power lines, traffic accidents and wild cats are accelerating the extinction of the Canarian houbara

Researchers at the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) show in a study that power and telephone lines, traffic accidents, wire fences and feral cats are accelerating the demographic decline of the Houbara in the Canary Islands. Chlamydotis undulata fuerteventurae.

Researchers have been analyzing populations of this bird and tagging specimens with recording devices for eight years. GPS trackingwhich has allowed them to know in detail the problems of this endangered species, endemic to the Canary Islands and an emblem of the fauna of the archipelago.

“Most fatal accidents on power and telephone lines occur at night because Houbara are nocturnal migrants. “The authorities need to take urgent action if they want to prevent the species from disappearing in a few decades,” explains the MNCN researcher. Juan Carlos Alonsowho leads the Houbara project.

Most fatal accidents on power and telephone lines occur at night because houbaras are nocturnal migrants.

Juan Carlos Alonso, who leads the Houbara project

“Another important factor is the accidents involving vehicles, which travel in very high numbers on the islands’ highways and roads. In Houbara breeding areas, it would be necessary to regulate tourist traffic, which has increased exponentially in recent decades, and to set vehicle speed limits. Finally, predation by feral cats also contributes to many Houbara deaths on the islands,” Alonso adds.

The hand of man after his downfall

According to the study published in the journal Scientific reportsand financed by Red Eléctrica de España at the request of the Government of the Canary Islands, overall mortality due to anthropogenic causes affects 6.2% of the Houbaras of the Canary Islands annually, a value added to that of the Canary Islands natural mortality, reaches 12.5% ​​of people. Given that the average annual productivity of chickens is only 7.15%, the current mortality rate is demographically unsustainable.

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Eliminating human-caused mortality could allow the population to recover, although the species would still require management measures to improve habitat quality and promote its reproduction.

It is important to take urgent conservation measures, such as relocating the most dangerous lines and marking the remaining lines at night with effective devices.

Juan Carlos Alonso

“It is important to take urgent conservation measures, such as burying the most dangerous lines, signaling the remaining lines with effective devices at night and regulating traffic, including speed limits, to reduce anthropogenic mortality.” Likewise, it is necessary to to improve Habitat quality and to reduce human impact in the areas where houbaras breed in order to promote an increase in their reproductive rate,” suggests Alonso. The species’ situation is very delicate and has worsened in recent years due to the lack of rain. The species is threatened with extinction on Fuerteventura.


Alonso JC et al. “Anthropogenic mortality threatens the survival of the Canary Islands Houbara bustards”. Scientific reports

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