Thursday, December 15

Pin-tailed sandgrouse

   ›      ›   Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata.

The pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) belongs to the sandgrouse family, Pteroclididae.

These species of sandgrouse are distributed in North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Portugal, France, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The pin-tailed sandgrouse species are gregarious and flocks of hundreds of birds fly to watering holes at dawn. There are two recognized subspecies of these sandgrouse species.

Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Overview

  • Scientific name: Pterocles alchata
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Tetrao Alchata Linnaeus, 1766
  • Family: Pteroclididae › Pteroclidiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Pin-tailed sandgrouse, Chinese: 白腹沙鸡, French: Ganga cata, German: Spießflughuhn, Spanish: Ganga ibérica, Russian: Белобрюхий рябок, Japanese: シロハラサケイ, Arabic: القطاة الغطاطة
  • Other names: Pintail Sandgrouse, Large Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, White-bellied Sandgrouse
  • Distribution: North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Spain, Portugal, France, Pakistan, India
  • Diet and feeding habits: seeds, grain, shoots, flowers, leaves
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The pin-tailed sandgrouse is considered to be closely related to the Namaqua sandgrouse (Pterocles namaqua), the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) and spotted sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus). The two recognized subspecies of Pterocles alchata are: Pterocles alchata alchata (Linnaeus, 1766) and Pterocles alchata caudacutus (S. G. Gmelin, 1774).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) is a medium sized sturdy bird, measuring 30 to 40 cm in length.


These sandgrouse species are sexually dimorphic. The males are larger than the females and have brighter plumage in the breeding season. The males weigh 250 to 400 grams whereas the females weigh 200 to 370 grams. The wingspan is 55 to 65 cm. The central rectrices (central tail streamers) are long, stiff and pointed. The central rectrices are longer in males.

The breeding male pin-tailed sandgrouse has yellowish face, cheek, neck, throat and upper chest. The crown and upper back are brownish yellow. There are large golden yellow spots and streaks on the shoulder and back. A narrow black stripe starts from the base of the bill and extends through the eyes to half the way to the center of nape. There is a dark patch immediately below the bill.

There is a broad brownish yellow band on the breast of pin-tailed sandgrouse, bordered on either side by a thin black stripe. The outer wing coverts are reddish brown with black and pale-yellow edges. The rump and tail are barred dark brown and pale-yellow. The central tail streamers are grayish brown. The sandgrouse underparts, underwing and feathered legs are whitish.

Outside the breeding season of the pin-tailed sandgrouse, all the upperparts, including head are barred in black and pale-yellow and the throat patch becomes whitish. The female has duller colors. The chin is whitish and the back and the wings are grayish with black barring.

The irises of the pin-tailed sandgrouse are brown. The bare skin around the eyes is slaty blue. The bill is slaty gray. The pin-tailed sandgrouse call is a loud “ kattar-kattar” in flight and also a nasal “ga-ga-ga" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata
Birds of India - Image of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata by Francesco Veronesi
Birds of India - Image of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata
Indian birds - Photo of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata by Donald Macauley
Indian birds - Image of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata
Birds of India - Picture of Pin-tailed sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The pin-tailed sandgrouse is distributed in Northwest Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Middle East, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Northern Iraq, Southern Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northwest India. In India they are distributed in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of pin-tailed sandgrouse species in Spain are Ballobar-Candasnos, Bardenas Reales, Belchite-Mediana, Brozas-Membrío, Campo de Montiel, Cogul-Alfés steppes, La Serena, Monegrillo-Pina steppe area-Pina, Plain between Cáceres and Trujillo-Aldea del Cano, San Clemente-Villarrobledo, Tembleque-La Guardia plains, Tierra de Campiñas steppes, Tordesillas-Mota del Marqués and Villafáfila.

The IBA of pin-tailed sandgrouse species in Turkey are Akçakale Plains, Ceylanpınar and Southern Euphrates Valley and Birecik Plains. The IBA of pin-tailed sandgrouse species in Turkmenistan is Chokrak-Tutly. The IBA of these sandgrouse species in Portugal is Upper River Tejo. The IBA in France is Crau.

Ecosystem and habitat

These pin-tailed sandgrouse species do not occur normally in forest. They inhabit various dry inland ecosystems. They inhabit semi-arid plains, fallow agricultural fields, arid treeless plains, semi-deserts, hot deserts, temperate grasslands, shrublands with sparse short shrubs, steppe, open grassland plains and dry mudflats.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of these pin-tailed sandgrouse species is mostly wild seeds, especially of legumes. They also feed on grain, green shoots, flowers and leaves. They fly in large flocks to watering holes at dawn.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these pin-tailed sandgrouse species depends upon availability of feed. These sandgrouse species are monogamous and feeding flocks break into pairs. The nest is a ground scrape, which is usually unlined. Typically three eggs are laid. The male incubates in the night and the female incubates in the day. The eggs hatch in about 25 days and hatchlings are led to feed by both the parents.

Migration and movement patterns

These pin-tailed sandgrouse species are partially migratory birds. The breeding populations in Northwest Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Middle East and parts of Afghanistan are sedentary or nomadic.


The breeding populations of the pin-tailed sandgrouse in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan are migratory and migrate to central Saudi Arabia, Northern Iraq, Southern Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northwest India (Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana) for wintering.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) is estimated to be around 170000 to 250000 individual birds. The overall population size is considered to be stable. The modern agricultural practices are degrading the habitat of these sandgrouse species and threaten their survival. Their generation length is 5.6 years.

The pin-tailed sandgrouse does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Pterocles alchata
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Pteroclidiformes
Family:Pteroclididae
Subfamily:-
Genus:Pterocles
Species:P. alchata
Binomial name:Pterocles alchata
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pin-tailed_Sandgrouse_-_Castuera_-_Extremadura_S4E6273_(14554070888).jpg
Image author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2016-12-13)
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27770620@N02/16897664865/in/photostream/
Image author: Donald Macauley | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2016-12-13)
3.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pin-tailed_sandgrouse_(Pterocles_alchata).jpg
Image author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2016-12-13)
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