Scientific Journal of the BirdLife Hungary

A Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület tudományos folyóirata

Ornis Hungarica. vol.22(2). (2014) p.14-31.

Conservation of Great Bustard (Otis tarda) population of the Mosoni-Plain – A success story
Sándor Faragó, Péter Spakovszky & Rainer Raab

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At the turn of the 19-20th centuries, the Great Bustard population of the Kisalföld (Little Hungarian Plain) numbered 4000 specimens. By 1990, only about 100 individuals remained in the Hungarian and Austrian territories. Of the many possible negative factors of current times, the greatest pressure on the Great Bustard population stems from unfavorable crop structures, extensive use of intensive agricultural technologies and predation. During the past decades, we have seen a shift in nesting place locations from natural-like habitats to agrar-type habitats. This change may be explained by the more favor­able structure and microclimate of this latter habitat type paralleled with greater food source availability. In order to escape this ecological trap, we have to engage in active conflict resolution that provides protection for the region’s Bustard population. 

For this very reason, the MOSON Project was founded in 1992 at the northern part of the Mosoni-Plain in the territory of Lajta-Hanság Co. Later, several Austrian regions joined the project. On these territories, out of the above mentioned 100 specimens, only 20 birds lived at the time. As the result of active habitat management of Great Bustards and coexisting small game species (mostly due to the influence of set-aside areas) as well as effective predator control (especially the Red Fox) resulted in an increase of the Great Bustard population. By the end of the 1990’s, the population grew to 120-130 individuals which number was limited by the carrying capacity of this territory. Consequently, the species continued to reoccupy new regions in the Hungarian and Austrian territories. These days, the number of Great Bustards in these protected regions is estima­ted to be 400 individuals.

In 1998, the Mosoni-plain was given IBA (HU-001) status, and in 2004, the region was protected under the Natura 2000 EU nature conservation network.