Tuesday 21 May
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)
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Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse fact file
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Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse description
Although perhaps rather plain in appearance, the plumage of the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) is in fact wonderful camouflage against the sand of its arid habitats. A somewhat small, plump bird, the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse has an unmarked head, dark under-wings, a blackish lower-belly, and a chestnut upper-belly, after which it is named. The dark-tipped bill is slate-blue, and there is a pale green circle around the eyes. The male chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is somewhat drabber than the female, with a pale brown back and a narrow chest band, compared to the female’s more elaborate, mottled back of tan, brown and dark brown. The juvenile lacks the elongated tail feathers of the adult bird, and has more densely barred upperparts. Six subspecies of the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse are currently recognised, and these vary mainly in the colouration of the upperparts (2).
- Also known as
- chestnut bellied sandgrouse, common Indian sandgrouse, Indian sandgrouse, lesser pin-tailed sandgrouse, small pin-tailed sandgrouse.
- Ganga à ventre châtain.
- Length: 31 - 33 cm (2)
- Wingspan: 48 - 51 cm (2)
- Male weight: 170 - 290 g (2)
- Female weight: 140 - 240 g (2)
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds:
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi:
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
BirdLife International - chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (September, 2010)
- Maclean, G.L. (1996) The Ecophysiology of Desert Birds. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
- Finn, F. (2006) The Game Birds. Read Books, Canada.
- Jerdon, T.C. (1864) The Game Birds and Wild Fowl of India: Being Descriptions of all the Species of Game Birds, Snipe, and Duck Found in India, with an Account of Their Habits and Geographical Distribution. The Military Orphan Press, Calcutta, India.
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Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse biology
The timing of breeding in the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is heavily influenced by the level of local rainfall, but generally occurs sometime between January and July, except in Kenya and Tanzania where the breeding season is more lengthy, ranging from February until November (2). The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse may produce two clutches a year, the nest being a simple scrape in the ground, holding three eggs per clutch (4), with both the male and female birds incubating the eggs (5). The chicks are active from hatching, soon foraging for food with the adult birds (4), but are unable to fly large distances and so must rely on the adults for water. At a water hole, the adult birds soak up water in the breast feathers before returning to the nest to “water” the chicks - a unique feature of the sandgrouse family. Adult birds can fly distances of up to 16 kilometres per day to find water, gathering in large flocks to drink a couple of hours after sunrise, and on very hot days at sundown (6).
The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse prefers to eat legumes such as beans, but also eats shoots and insects on rare occasions (2).
When a predator is detected, rather than fleeing and risk giving away its location, the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse sits still and relies on its wonderfully camouflaged plumage to conceal itself. It tends to live in small, scattered groups to reduce its visibility except for times when it gathers in often large numbers around watering holes (4).Top
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse range
The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse occurs along a narrow strip of sub-Saharan Africa, from the west coast to the east coast, where a larger distribution is found, as well as over much of India and Pakistan. There are also scattered populations along the coasts of the Middle East. The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse has also been introduced in the USA (1).Top
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse habitat
The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse inhabits a range of environments, including shrubland, semi-desert scattered with thorny shrubs or trees, arable land and grassland (1) (2), up to altitudes of 1,500 metres (1) (3).Top
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse status
The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse threatsTop
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse conservation
There are currently no known conservation plans targeting the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (1).Top
Find out more
For more information on the conservation of birds, see:
For more information about conservation in the Emirates, see:
For more information on the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and other bird species, see:
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