Namaqua Sandgrouse

Pterocles namaqua

The Namaqua Sandgrouse is a bird of dry habitats (less than 300mm of annual rainfall), ranging from sandy savannas and shrubland to gravel deserts. It is a seed-eater and highly nomadic. When not breeding they move around in flocks, often congregating in their hundreds if not thousands at waterholes in the early morning.

Namaqua Sandgrouse may breed at anytime of year, though nesting peaks at the end of the rainy season when grasses go to seed. Pairs are monogamous and their nest is little more than a scrape in the ground next to a small shrub or clump of grass. Clutches of 2-3 eggs are incubated by both parents for a 3 week period, the female sitting on the eggs by day while the male takes the night shift. The chicks can walk and start foraging soon after hatching. For the first 2 months of their lives their father makes daily trips to a waterhole up to 60km away to carry water back to his chicks in his belly feathers. The chicks can start flying short stints when they’re about a month old, but remain dependent on their parents till the age of about 3 months. Fully grown they measure about 26cm in length and weigh around 180g.

The Namaqua Sandgrouse occurs from south-western Angola, through Namibia, Botswana and marginally Zimbabwe to South Africa, where it is found in the more arid western half of our country in the provinces of North West, Free State, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. The IUCN considers it to be of least concern, the sinking of artificial waterholes in farm lands proving beneficial to this species.

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