The houbara bustard belongs to the larger bustard family (Otididae).This in turn consists of 11 genera, comprising 26 species and up to 39 subspecies. While ‘houbara’ is a common name, the bird’s scientific name is derived from the Greek words chlamys, meaning ‘cloak’, and otis, ‘bustard’. The combination of these words, Chlamydotis, means ‘cloaked bustard’, which may be a reference to the impression of the male houbara bustard during its courtship display.

The houbara was previously recognised as a single species with distinct geographical populations. However, based on genetic, morphological, geographic and behavioural criteria, in 2014 it was split into two species:

a) The Asian houbara bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii (also known as MacQueen’s bustard); and
b) The African houbara bustard, Chlamydotis undulata.

The African houbara bustard in turn comprises two subspecies, the North African houbara bustard, Chlamydotis undulata undulata, and the Canarian houbara bustard, Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae. The latter is found on the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote off the western coast of North Africa.

Houbara bustards inhabit large open landscapes: from the huge steppes of Central Asia to remote, semi-arid regions of sand and stone desert with sparse plant life. The range of the two species stretches from Morocco to Mongolia.