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Species Guide
A photo of a Burchell's Sandgrouse (Pterocles burchelli), male
Burchell's Sandgrouse, Male

Burchell's Sandgrouse

Pterocles burchelli

The Burchell's sandgrouse, a bird roughly the size of a pigeon, presents a plump silhouette with a small head and short legs. Its plumage is a light brown, intricately mottled with darker hues and adorned with white speckles. The male of the species is distinguished by a ring of bare yellow skin encircling the eye, with cheeks and throat of a pale grey shade. The male typically measures about 25 cm in length, with the female being slightly smaller in stature.

Identification Tips

To identify the Burchell's sandgrouse, look for its distinctive size and coloration. The male's yellow eye-ring and grey facial markings are key features, along with the speckled brown body. The female lacks the yellow eye-ring and has a more uniform coloration.


This species thrives in arid and semi-arid regions, often found in areas with rough grass and scrub, particularly favoring the red sands of the Kalahari.


The Burchell's sandgrouse is native to southern Africa, with its range encompassing Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. It is generally sedentary but may exhibit some local movements in response to water and food availability.


The Burchell's sandgrouse exhibits remarkable adaptations to its desert habitat. Adults employ gular fluttering and panting for evaporative cooling when temperatures soar. A unique behavior is their ability to transport water in their belly feathers to hydrate their chicks. They first ruffle their feathers on dry ground, then wade and bob in water to soak up moisture before returning to the nest to offer the life-sustaining liquid to their offspring.


Monogamous by nature, Burchell's sandgrouse breed during the dry season from April to October. They nest on the ground, often concealed by grass or shrubs, and both parents share in incubation duties. The precocial chicks are born with a downy covering and are quick to follow their parents. The adults' specially adapted breast feathers play a crucial role in transporting water to the young.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of Burchell's sandgrouse primarily consists of seeds, which they seek in their arid environment. Their movements and distribution are closely tied to the availability of these food sources and water.

Conservation status

The Burchell's sandgrouse is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population without immediate threats to its survival.

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Burchell's Sandgrouse on Birda


More Sandgrouse

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

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Pterocles alchata
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