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A photo of a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata), male
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Male

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Pterocles alchata

The pin-tailed sandgrouse, Pterocles alchata, presents itself as a medium-sized bird with a compact, sturdy body akin to that of a pigeon. It boasts a small head and neck, long pointed wings—white on the underside—and a notably long tail. Its flight is characterized by speed and directness, and it is often seen in flocks heading to water sources at dawn.

Identification Tips

Adults measure approximately 35 centimeters in length, with males distinguishable by their longer tails. The species exhibits yellowish-green upperparts and white underparts, separated by a chestnut breast band. The male's breeding plumage includes a yellowish-green crown, neck, and under-wing coverts, with a black line extending from the beak through the eye. Females are better camouflaged, with duller colors and shorter tails.

Habitat

The pin-tailed sandgrouse favors dry, open, treeless plains and similar environments for its habitat. It is not found at altitudes exceeding 1,000 meters.

Distribution

This bird is native to southern Europe, northwestern Africa, the Middle East, and southeastern Asia. It is a partial migrant, with some Asian populations moving to the Middle East and northern Pakistan during winter.

Behaviour

The pin-tailed sandgrouse is a gregarious bird, often seen in groups. It forages for seeds, which constitute the bulk of its diet, along with buds, green shoots, and leaves. The species is known to gather in large numbers at watering holes shortly after dawn.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire includes a loud "kattar-kattar" call, a nasal "ga-ga-ga," and a low-pitched "gang gang," especially when airborne. On the ground, it tends to be silent.

Breeding

Nesting occurs on the ground in a simple scrape. The clutch typically consists of two or three cream-colored, cryptically marked eggs. Both sexes share incubation duties, with the male taking the night shift and the female taking over after her morning visit to the waterhole.

Similar Species

The pin-tailed sandgrouse can be confused with the black-bellied sandgrouse, but it can be distinguished by its white underparts and under-wing coverts in flight, as well as its longer central tail feathers.

Diet and Feeding

The diet is primarily seeds, with a preference for legumes. In agricultural areas, they may consume grains and leguminous crop seeds. Occasionally, they also eat beetles and other small invertebrates.

Conservation status

The pin-tailed sandgrouse is classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN. Its population is estimated to be stable, ranging between 130,000 and 1,500,000 individuals. While the range may be expanding in southeastern Turkey, European populations are declining due to changes in agricultural practices.

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Pin-tailed Sandgrouse on Birda

Sightings
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Profile picture for James Hardcastle
James Hardcastle
05 Apr 2024 - 1:00pm
France

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A photo of a Double-banded Sandgrouse (Pterocles bicinctus) , male

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