The nominate race breeds in Iberia, northwest Africa, the Canary Islands, Turkey, Iran, Cyprus and Israel. The eastern form P. o. arenarius (Pallas, 1775) is found in Kazakhstan, western China and northern Pakistan. It is a partial migrant, with central Asian birds moving to the Pakistan and northern India in winter.
This gregarious species breeds on dry open plains and similar habitats, but unlike the pin-tailed sandgrouse, it avoids areas completely lacking in vegetation. Its nest is a ground scrape into which three greenish eggs with cryptic markings are laid. Both sexes incubate, but only the male brings water.
The black-bellied sandgrouse is 33–39 cm (13–15 in) long and weighs 300–615 g (10.6–21.7 oz). The male has a grey head, neck, and breast. The underparts are black and the upperparts are golden-brown with darker markings. There is a thin black border around the lower breast, and a chestnut throat patch.
The female has browner, more finely marked upperparts, including the head and the breast. The underparts and breast band are identical to the male.
The eastern race is paler and heavier than orientalis. Males have yellower upperparts and greyer underparts than the western form. Females are whiter below, but often inseparable.
This sandgrouse has a small, pigeon like head and neck, but a stocky compact body. It has long pointed wings and a fast direct flight. The white underwings and black belly make this species easy to identify while in flight. Flocks fly to watering holes at dawn.
The call is a soft chowrrr rrrr-rrrr.
- Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse by Madge and McGowan, ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
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