The Namaqua sandgrouse (Pterocles namaqua), is a species of ground-dwelling bird in the sandgrouse family. It is found in arid regions of south-western Africa.
The sandgrouse is a medium-sized bird with a plump body, small head and short legs. It grows to a length of about 28 centimetres (11 in). The male has an orangish buff head, throat and chest delineated by a conspicuous narrow band of white and dark brown. The back and wings are mottled brown with large white specks and there are two long black filaments extending from the olive-brown tail. The colouring of the female and juvenile is more cryptic being generally various shades of brown patterned with white specks. It could be confused with the double-banded sandgrouse (Pterocles bicinctus) and Burchell's sandgrouse (Pterocles burchelli), which share the same range.
Distribution and habitat
The sandgrouse is found in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa. It is found in areas of low rainfall on sandy and gravelly plains with tussocky grass and rough vegetation. In the northern part of its range the sandgrouse is resident but southern populations are migratory, moving northwards to Namibia and Botswana.
Outside the breeding season, the sandgrouse are gregarious. The birds converge on watering holes in the early morning and several dozens or even hundreds of individuals may congregate in one place. They also tend to spend the night in groups, congregating about an hour before dusk. They split up during the day into much smaller groups to feed.
Breeding takes place at any time of the year and is dependent on rainfall. Usually the nests are solitary but sometimes several pairs of birds choose sites near each other. The nest is a scrape in the earth, scantily lined with dried plant material. Two or three pinkish-grey eggs with brown markings are laid over the course of a few days. Incubation starts after the last egg has been laid and lasts about 22 days. The female does the incubation by day and the male does a longer shift at night, starting about two hours before sunset and finishing two hours after dawn. The chicks are precocial and able to leave the nest on the day they are hatched. The male brings them water absorbed on the specially adapted feathers of his breast. The chicks grow rapidly; they are fully feathered at three weeks and able to fly at six.
Status and threats
The species is common within its range and is considered to be of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The birds are at risk of predation by mongooses while they are young. Sheep farmers kill birds of prey and jackals to protect their flocks and this may have resulted in an increase in the mongoose population and consequently a diminution in the number of sandgrouse chicks that survive. Other predators that prey on the Namaqua sandgrouse include the booted eagle (Aquila pennatus) and the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pterocles namaqua". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Ganga namaqua". Oiseaux.net. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
- "Pterocles namaqua (Namaqua sandgrouse)". Biodiversity. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- Lloyd, Penn; Little, Robin M.; Crowe, Timothy M. (2001). "The breeding biology of the Namaqua sandgrouse, Pterocles namaqua ". Journal of African Ornithology. 72 (3–4): 169–178. doi:10.2989/00306520109485313.
- Namaqua sandgrouse – Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.