What is a Sandgrouse?

Amanda R. Bell
Amanda R. Bell
Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The sandgrouse, also known as pteroclididae, is a group of 16 types of birds residing in Africa, India, Central Asia and the Middle East. They are the only remaining birds of the order pteroclidiformes and range in size from 7 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm) long and weigh 0.3 to 1.5 pounds (150 to 500 g). The head and neck of the sandgrouse is shaped much like that of a pigeon, and their body is solid and muscular, making them capable of walking and taking flight quickly. The wings and tails are long and pointed, and they are feathered down to the toes. These feathers typically are brown or gray in color, although this varies greatly between males and females.

The diet of these birds consists primarily of seeds, which they collect from the ground or directly from the plant. Between the 16 types of these birds, the manner in which they eat varies. The sandgrouse of Namibia eat very slowly and carefully, but the sandgrouse in Zimbabwe eat hastily.

Unlike many other types of birds, sandgrouse are rather fussy about the types of seeds they eat, preferring those from the bean and pea families of plants. When sandgrouse live near agricultural areas, they rely on oats and grains as their primary source of food. These birds prefer to feed in flocks and, because of their dry diet, require regular visits to water sources. During the water stops, the sandgrouse will often call out to other members of their species, resulting in thousands of birds visiting the same drinking site at once. Although not every species needs to drink every day, stopping to drink every other day is typical among these types of birds.

This species of birds, unlike many others, is monogamous. The breeding season usually occurs following the local rainy season when the flock breaks up into pairs. Each pair will choose a nesting site, which usually is only a slight indentation in the ground. Anywhere from two to four eggs are laid, although three is the normal amount, and both the male and female share incubation duties. The male sandgrouse usually will incubate the eggs at night and through the early morning, with the female taking over the duties during the day. This goes on for 20 to 25 days, after which the eggs hatch.

The chicks are born capable of feeding themselves, but they do need to learn feeding skills from their parents, whom they stay with for several months following their birth. Like most young of any species, sandgrouse chicks are not able to regulate their body temperatures at first. They must rely on both of their parents to regulate their body temperatures for them during high heat and cool nights.

These birds typically live in unpopulated areas and have little to no contact with humans. They rarely are sought as game birds because they usually are not palatable to humans. As of 2010, none of the 16 types of sandgrouse were considered to be endangered.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy