The Kori Bustard is Africa's heaviest flying bird and can weigh up to 19kg. It is a land bird with long neck and long foot ended by three fingers with light brown or grey plumage. The sides of the crown on the head extend into a black crest. There is a white stripe over each eye. The chin, throat, and neck are creamy white mixed with black bands.
The underparts of the bird are buff colored with dark brown vermiculations. The tail has wide bands of grayish brown and white. The primaries, or flight feathers, are also similarly marked. The shoulder area has a checkered black and white pattern.
The Kori Bustard is known as Africa's heaviest bird. It is an omnivore, eating both plant-like berries and animals like lizards and snakes. For chicks, the main course is insects. It has been found that they eat the gum from the Acacia tree.
Whether they are feeding on insects who may eat the gum themselves or are digesting the gum directly has not been determined. Another important habit of Kori Bustards is that they drink using a sucking motion, unlike other birds that scoop up the water with their bills.
Kori Bustards are considered to be a polygynous species. During pre-mating, the male will inflate its neck and trail its wings as it dances before the female.
Some male bustards even act further and ruffle all their feathers, appearing as a great white ball. They may also bow toward the female while inflating the bill. Males tend to pitch a booming sound too. By this time the male is noticed by the female. Breeding males display this act either early in the day, or late afternoon. Males take no part in raising the young.
Females remain on the nest most of the time, leaving it for only short intervals, to feed. Reproduction usually only occurs once a year lasting about 23-30 days. When the female is laying her eggs, it is common for a mother not to create a thick nest; she may even lay them on ground.
They are ground dwellers, hence the name bustard, meaning birds that walk. They fly only when necessary because of their weight. It is even appearing that the Kori Bustards may become categorized as the few large flightless birds like ostriches and emus, which means they may be returning to an ancient ancestral form, since they, and the other cranes, are descendants of large flightless predators. They have a long life span and breed slowly. They tend to remain in the same area as long as the food source is good, then they migrate as most animals do.
They are seen alone, in pairs or groups in woodland, grassy plains and Kalahari scrub. Kori bustard walks slowly with measured strides and flies reluctantly. In courtship, the male inflates its throat to spread the white frontal neck feathers outwards, the head with raised crest is drawn back, the wings are drooped and the tail deflected upwards and forwards to the neck.
The birds have a majestic walk and for their size are remarkably strong fliers. They take off with very heavy wing beats, but once air-borne they fly quickly and strongly. They prefer to walk away from danger and only fly if pressed. When in a group, the birds walk in a loose line across the veld searching for food.