Females have narrow brown crown; neck and breast are off-white to grey; less visible black breast band; less black and white on wings. Males are up to 1 metre tall when standing, females up to 70 centimetres tall.
Immature birds resemble females. Downy young have dark stripes on head and neck, the body is buff and brown.
This is a tall, stately bird; stands and walks with neck upstretched and bill uplifted; freezes if disturbed then slowly walks away and speeds up if followed or takes off with deep, slow, wingbeats. Individuals feed on the ground in the morning and late afternoon; food is picked up in the beak and swallowed whole. The diet of the Australian Bustard includes centipedes, insects, lizards, young birds, small rodents, molluscs, leaves seeds and fruit. Flocks may congregate at bushfires feeding on animals flushed or killed by the fire.
Lives in grasslands, light scrublands and woodlands of inland Australia. The species is highly nomadic and apparently moves in response to rainfall. Distribution of individuals also appears to be influenced by vegetation structure with sightings usually confined to areas where upper canopy cover is less than ten per cent or under two metres high in or near areas where grasses are dominant. The preferred habitat is tussock to hummock grasslands like speargrass, Mitchell grass, spinifex, arid scrub with saltbush and bluebush as well as open dry woodland of mulga, mallee or heath. Individuals have been recorded in pastoral and cropping country.
Breeding takes place in the north from January to march mostly and from September to November in the south. The mail Bustard puts on a spectacular display: the neck is inflated and long neck feathers spread out into a fan which sways from side to side. Wings droop to the ground, the tail spreads and rises over the back;the head is thrown backward and the bird holds this pose while strutting around booming loudly. This display, on a small display ground, is intended to attract itinerant females.
Generally nests are not made, the eggs are laid on bare ground with stones scrapped away. Eggs are olive-brown to light olive-green, with irregular spots and olive-brown blotches; oval, about 78 by 55 millimetres. Females incubate the eggs for 24 days and stay with the young until some time after fledging
Remains common away from more settled regions throughout Australia except for the south-east section. The Australian Bustard was once widespread in suitable Australian habitats and flocks of up to 1000 birds were reported in grassland and shrubland areas throughout Australia in the 19th century. The Bustard unfortunately acquired a reputation as being good to eat and numbers have reduced. Foxes also acquired a taste for the bird. In New South Wales the Australian Bustard has disappeared from closely settled areas. Claims are made that the Lake Eyre Basin is a stronghold for the species.