SANDGROUSE is the common name for Pteroclididae, a family of 16 species of birds.
They have small, pigeon-like heads and necks and sturdy compact bodies. The males are slightly large and more brightly-coloured than the females. They have 11 strong primary feathers and long pointed wings, giving them a fast direct flight. The muscles of the wings are powerful and the birds are capable of rapid take-off and sustained flight.
The feathers of the belly are specially adapted for absorbing water and retaining it, allowing adults, particularly the males, to carry water to the chicks that may be many miles away from watering holes. The amount of water, that can be carried, in this way, is 15-20 millilitres.
Their range extends from the Caspian Sea through Southern Siberia, Tibet & Mongolia to northern and central China. They are normally resident, but can be locally migratory and, occasionally, eruptive appearing in areas well outside its normal range.
Sandgrouse are principally seed eaters. Other food items include green shoots and leaves, bulbs and berries. Insect food, such as ants and termites may be eaten especially during the breeding season. Seeds of leguminous plants are usually an important part of the diet. The double-banded Sandgrouse feed slowly and methodically, while Namaqua Sandgrouse feed rapidly, exploring loose soil with their beaks and flicking it away sideways. Grit is also swallowed to help grind up food in the gizzard.
Sandgrouse are gregarious, feeding in flocks of up to 100 birds. As a consequence of their dry diet, they need to vist water sources regularly. Drinking time vary among the species. 10 species drink at dawn, 4 at dusk and 2 at indeterminate times When drinking, water is sucked into the beak, which is then raised to let the water flow down into the crop. By repeating this procedure rapidly, enough water —– to last 24 hours —- can be swallowed in a few seconds. As they travel to water-holes, they CALL to members of their own species and many 100s or 1000s synchronise their arrival at the drinking site, despite converging from different locations scattered over 100s of square miles of territory.
They are vulnerable to attack, while watering, but, with a large number of birds milling about, predators find it difficult to select a target bird and are likely to have been spotted before they can get closer to the flock.
Sandgrouse are monogamous. The nesting site is a slight depression in the ground and three cryptic eggs are laid. Incubation duties are shared —- males incubate at night and the females sit on the eggs during the day. Theggs usually hatch after 20-25 days . The parents do not provides the chicks with food and they learn, with parental guidance ( imagine that) what is edible and what is not. The chicks obtain their water from the soaked downy feathers of the adults’ (especially the male) breasts. They remain with the parents, as a family group, for several months. Sandgrouse have little interaction with people, because most species live in arid, unpopulated areas and at low densities. They are not generally sought after as game bird, as they are not specially palatable.
The different species are: (1) Pallas’s Sandgrouse (2) Tibetan Sandgrouse (3) Spotted Sandgrouse (4) 4-Banded Sandgrouse (5) Madagascan Sandgrouse (6) Black-bellied Sandgrouse (7) Namaqua Sandgrouse (8) Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (9) Painted Sandgrouse (10) Yellow-throated Sandgrouse (11) Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (12) Black-face Sandgrouse (13) Crowned Sandgrouse (14) Burchell’s Sandgrouse (15) Double-banded Sandgrouse (16) Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.