Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata)

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

[order] PTEROCLIDIFORMES | [family] Pteroclididae | [latin] Pterocles alchata | [UK] Pin-tailed Sandgrouse | [FR] Ganga cata | [DE] Spiess-Flughuhn | [ES] Ganga comun | [NL] Witbuikzandhoen


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Pterocles alchata EU sw, also n AF
Pterocles alchata alchata Iberian Pen., se France
Pterocles alchata caudacutus n Africa through the Middle East to s Kazakhstan and Pakistan Arabia, Pakistan

Physical charateristics

Long central rectrices, underwing and belly white. 30=39 cm, 210-400 g, wingspan 55-65 cm.
Broad chestnut band on breast, bordered with black lines. bill bluish grey-horn, orbital ring blue. Female duller, and has additional black line on neck.
Exceptionally among sandgrouse, a non-breeding plumage exists in male, showing white throat, black eyestripe reduced or absent, and dorsal parts barred, without yellow spots.
Race caudacutus paler, with longer wings.

Listen to the sound of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

[audio: Sandgrouse.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 54 cm wingspan max.: 65 cm
size min.: 31 cm size max.: 39 cm
incubation min.: 19 days incubation max.: 21 days
fledging min.: 26 days fledging max.: 21 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia : Southwest, also North AF


Mainly on lowland plains, including baked mud on dried-out marshes by tidal water on Spanish marismas, stony hammada on desert edge, and bare clay expanses alternating with sand, as well as dusty or sunbaked flats and sand-dunes. Often on infertile areas of dry cultivation, or near irrigation ditches. Inhabits areas of scattered tamarisk and other bushes, but avoids trees and scrubland, and rocky broken terrain. Like other sandgrouse, unable to exist far from water, essential not only for adults but for carrying in soaked belly feathers to chicks, in regular social flights. Will drink brackish water in absence of fresh, and will not only wade but alight on river far from shore, floating high like gull and taking off without difficulty.


Egg laying from April to August. Nest is a slight scrape or natural depression in the ground, unlined. Clutch size 3 eggs, incubated for 20-22 days. Male incubates 4 hours after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Chick has ochraceous brown down mottled black, they fledge after about a month.

Feeding habits

Mainly feeds on seeds, but to lesser extent also green shoots and leaves. Strongly selects Leguminosae , and also takes Polygonum, Salicornia, Artemisia and others. In agricultural areas, takes cereal grain and cultivated legumes as well.
Species typically drinks during morning, and in hot weather some birds also an hour before sunset.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population, including an estimated 20,000-41,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Pterocles alchata is resident in Iberia, south-eastern France and southern Turkey,
with Europe accounting for less than a quarter of its global range. Its European
breeding population is relatively small (<21,000 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the population in France was stable during 1990- 2000, the species continued to decline in Portugal, Turkey and its Spanish stronghold, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, it is provisionally
evaluated as Declining.
This bird of northern Africa and south-western Asia is also inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula and southern France. It is sedentary, and the populations of the European Union are estimated at 6000-11000 breeding pairs. Nearly everywhere it has considerably decreased following reclamation of its breeding habitat for agricultural development
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse status Least Concern


Resident and nomadic in west Palearctic range; largely migratory in central Asia.
Rather little movement occurs in southern Europe, dispersal being restricted; Iberian birds occur irregularly outside breeding range, e.g. in Guadalquivir delta, and French birds (from Crau population) are erratic visitors to Gard and Provence. Nomadic movements more marked in North Africa, where numbers vary regionally (especially late summer to March) as flocks settle in areas of local rainfall and penetrate further into desert after heavy rains. In Middle East, extensive dispersals reported from Iraq especially; birds will push out further into desert areas during autumn rains, though, in winter, flocks are conspicuous in river valleys before spring return to breeding areas.

Distribution map

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *