Great Bustards breed on open grasslands and farmland from northern Morocco, South and Central Europe to temperate Central (Ukraine & Russia) and East Asia. European populations are mainly resident, with Asian populations migrating farther south in winter. It is estimated that there are now fewer than 35,000 Great Bustards left in the wild.
Globally, the Great Bustard is now at risk of extinction. Pakistan once had population of 1,500 but in 2019 it was reported that there were less than 200 birds due to poaching. Portugal and Spain now have about 60% of the world’s great bustard population. In 1996 it was listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List, then endangered as of 2023.
Our own population was once dispersed between the Wiltshire Downs, Salisbury Plain and Norfolk, but with hunting and the changing of farming practices, the last birds were recorded in 1832.
The Great Bustard conservation group whose patron is King Charles III was formed in 1998 by David Waters, whose aim was re-establishing a wild population. He initially hand reared the young chicks before releasing them onto Salisbury Plain, where today there is a small population of 100 birds. The Bustard is shown within the Wiltshire coat of arms and the county flags showing its historical importance.
In 2023 Downton Distillery partnered with the conservation group, to raise awareness and monies for the charity. We designed a spirit that uses 4 botanicals that are part of the Great Bustard diet, which can be foraged on salisbury plain. The botanicals we selected are wild rocket, yarrow, lucerne and red clover which provide unique notes within the spirit.
For every bottle purchased, we will donate £10 to the charity, so they can continue to work with farmers and to protect the habit of this wonderful bird. The charity also run tours where you can see the wonderful dancing displays in the breeding season.