The Kori bustard is a heavy bird with a large neck, belonging to the bustard family. Female Kori bustards are twice smaller than males. The species is easily identified by its size and crest. In addition, unlike other bustard species, these birds do not have rufous on their hind neck. When flying, the under-wings of Kori bustards display the identifying grey markings without white spots. The birds have yellowish beak, eyes, legs and feet. The back of Kori bustard is brown, and the tail exhibits black and white bands. The birds have white markings on the shoulders and both sides of the neck. The belly is whitish, and the head has a crest. The necks and breasts are vermiculated and colored with grey. Chicks of this species have creamy plumage, whitish underparts as well as dark bands on their flanks, back, neck and head. Male juveniles are distinguished from adult males by and dark mantle and shorter head crest. Meanwhile, male juveniles are usually taller than adult females.
The Kori bustards are African birds, living within two separate areas of distribution. These are: the southwest of the continent, near the Horn of Africa, covering parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania; and the other one in the far south, stretching across all of Botswana and Namibia, some parts of Zimbabwe, and reaching South Africa. The ideal environment for this bird is areas with short grass and dry, sandy soil. Kori bustards are found in savannahs, grasslands and scrublands. In addition, they can occasionally inhabit agricultural fields with scattered trees and wheat growth.
These birds are non-migratory, usually living in the same place as long as there are available sources of food and water. Generally, these bustards occur alone or in small flocks, rarely - in larger groups. Kori bustards are diurnal. They usually forage in low bushes or trees during the daytime hours, spending the greater part of their time on the ground. Kori bustards are extremely shy and cautious birds. Normally, they are not afraid of humans. But once threatened or alarmed, the birds immediately couch or run. Kori bustards walk with the identifying slow and hesitant gait. When spotting an intruder, they quietly back away in order to remain unnoticed. As a large and heavy bird, Kori bustard do not tend to fly, preferring to run when necessary. When pushed forward, the bird usually runs, making heavy wing-beats.
Kori bustards are omnivores, consuming food of both animal and plant origin. These birds primarily feed upon meat, using insects, small species of mammal, reptiles as well as other birds. They supplement their diet with seeds, berries and, occasionally, gum of the Acacia tree.
Kori bustards have polygynous mating system, where each male mates with a number of females. During the breeding season, which lasts from the middle of March to August, males gather into special group called "lek", performing displays in mornings and evenings, in order to attract receptive females. These birds don't construct nests; they simply make a small shallow recess in the ground, where the females lay 1 - 2 eggs, incubating them for about 23 - 24 days. The eggs of Kori bustard are pale olive, covered with brown markings. Newly hatched chicks are precocial. The hatchlings are generally cared by their mother, rarely – by the father. At the age of around 4 - 5 weeks, the chicks fledge, though the female stays with her offsprings until the following year. Kori bustards are sexually mature at 2 years old.
Along with many other animal species, this bird currently suffers from loss of its natural habitat as a result of farming and livestock grazing. Kori bustards are also threatened by high-voltage power lines, which are potentially dangerous for flying birds. In addition, they attract hunters for their meat as well as feathers, which are used by American fly fishing trade.
Presently, the overall number of their population is unknown, though the birds are known to be common in some areas of their range. In South Africa, for example, the estimated population of Kori bustards varies from 2,000 to 5,000 individuals. However, the numbers are decreasing, and the bird is classified on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened (NT) species.
The Kori bustard can occasionally be seen with carmine bee-eater perched on its back; these two often cooperate with each other, feeding together. When foraging, the bustard stirs up insects, which are immediately captured by the carmine bee-eater. The latter, in turn, helps the Kori bustard escape predators.