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a family of birds of the order Gruiformes. The birds are large- or medium-sized with a long neck and strong, rather long legs. The toes are short with stiff, horny pads; the hind toe (hallux) is absent. The tail is short. There is no uropygial gland; thus the feathers are not covered with oil and become soaked when it rains. If a frost follows, the feathers become so frozen that the bird is unable to fly and is completely helpless.
The family Otididae has 11 genera comprising 24 species. In the USSR there are three species: the great bustard (Otis tarda), the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax), and the Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata). The Otididae usually move sedately in search of food. They can run well but fly with difficulty. The Otididae are sedentary birds, but they are great wanderers; however, they do not migrate. They inhabit the steppes and semideserts of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia (one species). In forestless mountains they are often found at elevations of up to 2,000 m.
The Otididae feed on seeds, tubers, and plant verdure as well as on insects, most often beetles and orthopterons. Sometimes they eat earthworms and small rodents. The birds stay in pairs only during the courtship season, when the males utter their mating call and posture characteristically. Later the males form flocks and move from place to place, while the females lay two eggs in a nest built in a depression in the soil and lined with grass stalks. The young are covered with down at birth and are able to follow their mother on the same day they hatch. Because of the plowing up of virgin and long unused land and intensive hunting (including of frozen birds), the great bustard and little bustard are sharply decreasing in number. The Otididae are game birds with very tasty flesh.