Going to bat for the bustards

At last someone is doing something about the great bustard. In some discerning quarter this ancient and noble bird has been held in appropriate regard. As recently as the postwar years, a lord in an English novel coulb boast that on his grounds was the burial spot of one of the last bustards.

Once common in Britain, the great bustard became extinct there about 1832 except for a few visitants. Now India is determined not to let the same thing happen in its domain. With its flock of great bustards having dwindled to less than two hundred, India is building a national park as a refuge for them.

Many their tribe increase. For this is a bird that can be not only stunning to look at but instructively different from its reputation for being a "slow bird," as the possible Latin origins of its name suggest.

Imagine the sight of the great bustard when, as described by one authority, it turns its wings inside out "thus encasting its body in a magnificent black, white, and golden wreath of feathers." And the Oxford Dictionary notes that the bustard is "remarkably swift" on foot and, though "averse to flight" -- aren't we all? -- is "capable of great speed when compelled to take wing."

We can almost feel the elation in the British report of 1836: "Bustards have been heard of within the last few years in the neighborhood of Bury St. Edmund's." All hail India for ensuring they will be heard of in perpetuity.

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