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A photo of a Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus), male
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Male

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Pterocles exustus

The Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, or Pterocles exustus, presents a captivating sight with its small to medium stature and elongated, pointed tail in flight. On the ground, its short legs and small head are noticeable, and it extends its neck when alert. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males and females sporting distinct plumage.

Identification Tips

In flight, the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse reveals its isabelline-grey/brown upper parts and elongated tail. Grounded, the male's plumage is a tapestry of dull yellow-ochre, orange-buff, and vinous-buff, with a striking black band bordered by white. The female, on the other hand, is adorned with dull-buff streaks and dark brown markings, with a vinous neck and black-spotted breast.

Habitat

This bird favors the barren semi-deserts, thriving in arid climates yet remaining heavily reliant on water sources.

Distribution

The Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse spans across northern and central Africa, reaching into western and southern Asia. It is found in various subspecies across this range, each with subtle variations in plumage.

Behaviour

The species is generally sedentary, with some local movements in search of water and food. It is known for its remarkable daily treks to water sources, sometimes covering up to 50 miles.

Diet and Feeding

A selective feeder, the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse primarily consumes seeds, particularly favoring those of leguminous plants. Despite living in dry environments, it drinks water daily, often congregating in large numbers at waterholes.

Breeding

The species reaches sexual maturity after one year. Males display fresh plumage and elongated tail feathers during the breeding season. Nests are simple ground scrapes, often in the open, with typically three eggs laid. Chicks are precocious and leave the nest shortly after hatching.

Predators and Threats

While resilient against diseases and not prone to common poultry ailments, the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse can fall prey to raptors such as falcons, especially near waterholes.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant immediate threats to its survival.

Similar Species

The Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse can be distinguished from other sandgrouse species by its unique coloration and habitat preferences. Its sexual dimorphism also aids in identification.

Relationship with humans

The species has been introduced in various locations, such as Hawaii and Japan, for potential use as a game bird. However, these introductions have had mixed success, with some birds migrating away from release sites. In captivity, the species is not commonly kept, partly due to the challenges in managing their flightiness and social stress.

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Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse on Birda

Photos
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