Pterocliformes – Sandgrouses

Possess exceptional powers for sustained flight and are also quite good runners!

A group of birds adapted to some of Earth’s most arid, sterile environments. They are found across various regions of Africa and Asia, where their presence is often a testament to their resilience and specialized survival strategies.

Sandgrouse are medium-sized birds with compact bodies, small heads, and short legs, yet their long, pointed wings are a striking contrast, adapted for fast and direct flight. Their plumage is a blend of intricate patterns that mimic the sandy and rocky landscapes they inhabit, providing excellent camouflage against predators.

Their daily activity is primarily centered around the search for food and water. As predominantly seed-eating birds, sandgrouse have a diet consisting mainly of various seeds they find on the ground, providing them with most of their nutritional needs. However, they do require water for drinking, which is not an easy resource to find in their dry habitats.

Remarkably adapted to their desert environments, sandgrouse are known for their incredible ability to travel great distances in search of water. They can fly up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) daily to reach a reliable water source. They exhibit strong and coordinated flocking behavior during these flights, often traveling in large groups.

One of the most fascinating behaviors of sandgrouse is related to how they provide water for their young. The males have specialized belly feathers that can soak up water like a sponge. Upon returning to the nest, their chicks drink directly from these saturated feathers, an adaptation that is crucial for survival in an environment where standing water is a rare commodity.

Sandgrouse species exhibit a range of reproductive strategies, often laying their eggs directly on the ground, relying on their plumage’s camouflage effect for protection. The eggs and chicks are remarkably well-adapted to their harsh environment from the moment they hatch, capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.