The Great Bustard
This huge egg was laid by the Great Bustard (Otis tarda). An adult male can reach 1.1 metres tall! Great Bustards live in open grasslands. Most of the time they spend on the ground, but they can fly and some migrate hundreds of miles. In fact, the great bustard is the largest flying bird in the world - some males weigh over 20 kilograms.
Unfortunately, you are not likely to see one in the British Isles. The last native bird was killed in about 1840. It is thought that the destruction of its habitat was the main cause of the extinction of the British race. However, towards the end, when the birds were scarce, egg collectors and other naturalists who wanted their own stuffed specimen, contributed to its destruction.
The memory of this spectacular bird lived on. For example, the birds feature on the coats-of-arms of both Wiltshire and Cambridgeshire.
But is it all over for the great bustard in Britain? Good news! The UK is obliged under EU legislation (Habitats Directive 1992) to reintroduce species where it is considered feasible. In 2004, 27 young great bustards arrived from Saratov in Russia and were released at a prepared site on Salisbury Plain, followed by a further 32 in 2005. So far things seem to be going well. You can find out more at the Great Bustard Group’s website.
‘Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.’
(Isaiah 53. 1-2)
‘We thank you, Lord, that in times of hopelessness, you bring us hope. Help us to reflect your self-giving, strong love in our relationships with each other and with all your creation.’