Sandgrouse vary in size from 9.8 to 19 inches (25 to 48 centimeters) in length and 4.6 to 19.4 ounces (130 to 550 grams) in weight. Sandgrouse are generally colored to blend into their environments. Females and males have different coloration in most species, with females being colored more similarly to their environments. Sandgrouse are also characterized by extremely dense down that is well suited to their sometimes cold habitats. Some sandgrouse have partially feathered legs, while other species have feathers covering all of their legs and toes. Sandgrouse have short legs and long, pointed wings. They are good runners and extremely good fliers.
Sandgrouse are found exclusively in the Old World, including portions of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Mongolia.
Sandgrouse are found in desert and semi-desert areas as well as in various grassland habitats.
Sandgrouse eat seeds almost exclusively. They pick seeds off the surface of the ground, and may also look for buried seeds by flicking away the surface layer of sand with their bills. Sandgrouse also drink water frequently, often daily. They drink by dipping their bills in water and sucking, and then raising their heads to swallow.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Sandgrouse feed, rest, and nest on the ground. They fly to water every day, a trip that, depending on the population, can be as far as 75 miles (120 kilometers) round-trip. Sandgrouse are generally found in large flocks that can include several hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Because sandgrouse occupy desert habitats, they generally forage, or search for food, during the cooler hours of the day.
During the breeding season, sandgrouse are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), a single male mates with a single female. Nests are made by scraping the ground, often in the shade of a small plant. Nests may be lined with stones or with bits of vegetation. The female lays three eggs at a time. Sandgrouse eggs are long and spotted. The female incubates, sits on, the eggs during the day, while the male incubates during the night hours. Chicks hatch after twenty-one to thirty-one days. Parents do not feed the chicks. However, the male does provide water to the young by soaking his belly feathers with water and flying back to the nest. Chicks are able to fly after four or five weeks.
SANDGROUSE AND PEOPLE
Sandgrouse are sometimes hunted for food, usually at their watering holes.
No sandgrouse species are considered threatened at this time. However, hunting has affected some populations.