A fairly small sandgrouse which appears rather uniformy coloured from a distance except for darker flight feathers, the wholly dark flight fetahers being the best feature to identify Crowned Sandgrouse from the similar Spotted Sandgrouse. The dark flight feathers contrast with the sandy upper wing coverts and the creamy underwing coverts. The adult male has a black mask and lacks any grey tones on the neck and breast. The females and immatures lack the black mask and differ from Spotted Sandgrouse in having dark vermiculations, rather than spots, across the breast and all of the belly and not confined to the breast and upper belly as in Spotted. They are 27–29 cm long and have a wingspan of 52–63 cm.
The crowned sandgrouse is a bird of deserts, preferring stony deserts rather than sandy ones. In North Africa breeds among dark red sandstone which matches its plumage colour. Avoids areas with too much vegetation.
The crowned sandgrousse is rather nomadic in the dry season and is recorded away from areas where breeding is known. For example, it is scarce in Libya north of 32°N but is frequent at Wadi Caam in the dry season of June to September. It is gregarious outside the breeding season, especially when visiting water resources which it flies to in early and mid morning and again towards sunset. It mainly feeds on hard seeds but also feeds on shoots of grass and other plants.
The nest is a shallow depression on open ground and has no lining, although there may be a circle of stomes around the nest as the birds move any small stomes within the depression to the rim when they start laying. Clutch is 2-3 eggs which are incubated for just over three weeks and the chicks fledge in 24–28 days.
Previously the crowned sandgroupse was included in genus Eremialector and recent studies suggest that it is part of a clade that also includes the yellow-throated sandgrouse P. gutturalis and the Madagascan sandgrouse P. personatus; and these may form a group along with the two Syrrhaptes species, black-bellied sandgrouse P. orientalis, Namaqua sandgrouse P. namaqua and chestnut-bellied sandgrouse P. exustus, and possibly including also P. alchata and P. burchelli; further study is required.
- Pterocles coronatus coronatus M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823: Sahara Desert from southern Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania east to north central Sudan and the Red Sea coast.
- Pterocles coronatus vastitas R. Meinertzhagen, 1928 – Sinai and neighbouring areas of Israel and Jordan.
- Pterocles coronatus saturatus Kinnear, 1927 –the hilly country of interior Oman.
- Pterocles coronatus atratus E. J. O. Hartert, 1902 – Southern Arabia (except interior Oman) and southern Iran east to south-western Afghanistan and Baluchistan.
- Pterocles coronatus ladas Koelz, 1954 – Sind.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pterocles coronatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Pterocles coronatus Lichtenstein, 1823". Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (https://www.itis.gov). Retrieved 2016-11-27.
- Mark Beaman; Steve Madge (1998). The Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Palearctic. Christopher Helm. p. 470. ISBN 0-7136-3960-1.
- "Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronatus)". HBW Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
- Snow, D.W.; Perrins, C.M. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic Concise Edition Volume 1 Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press. pp. 828–829. ISBN 0 19 850187 0.