Well adapted to living in sweltering desert temperatures, the sand partridge has striking dark red, black and white wavy streaked plumage on its sides, with a sandy-pink underside that darkens towards the back (2)(4). It has a distinctive blue-grey head, with a white, oval patch on its cheek and a chestnut coloured throat (2)(4), and the beak is short and yellow (4). In flight, the sand partridge can be identified by its dark chestnut tail feathers (4). Both females and juveniles are ‘washed-out’ versions of the male, being more sandy and grey in colour, with fewer distinct markings (2). The song of the sand partridge is said to have a yelping quality which often echoes in its rocky surroundings (5). The male’s call includes the sounds qwei-qwei-qwei and when alarmed wuit-wuit-wuit(4).
The sand partridge is well adapted to living in the scorching heat of the desert sun; a study has shown that this species can readily go without water for at least six days (7). During the summer, seeds make up to 80 percent of the bird’s diet (3), although it also feeds upon green vegetation, berries and insects when available (2).
This species generally lives in pairs and is thought to be monogamous(2)(5). The female usually lays five to seven eggs around the month of April, nesting under the shelter of an over-hanging rock or plant (6). This ground-dwelling bird is a weak flier and when disturbed it prefers to rapidly run or climb to safety (5).
This species is found in hot, dry desert habitats, where it usually resides on steep, rocky slopes with scattered vegetation, but can sometimes also be found in sandy, dried-out rivers (6). This bird often has to tolerate extreme climates; for example, the average summer temperature in the Arava desert of Israel is around 40 degrees Celsius, with an annual rainfall of 50 millimetres (3).
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Kam, M., Degen, A.A. and Nagy, K.A. (1987) Seasonal energy, water, and food consumption of Negev chukars and sand partridges. Ecology, 68(4): 1029-1037.
Hollom, P.A.D., Porter, R.F., Christensen, S. and Willis, I. (1988) Birds of the Middle East and North Africa: A Companion Guide. T&AD Poyser, England.
Johnsgard, P.A. (1988) The Quails, Partridges, and Francolins of the World. Oxford University Press, New York.
Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (1980) Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 2: Hawks to Bustards. Oxford University Press, London.
Degen, A.A. (1985) Responses to intermittent water intakes in sand partridges and chukars. Physiological Zoology, 58(1): 1-8.
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