Pteroclididae - Sandgrouse

Sandgrouse are birds of desert and dry scrub, their mottled brown plumage camouflaging them perfectly in the dusty landscape. Long, but dumpy birds with short, feathered legs they bear a superficial resemblance to grouse, however the latest molecular analyses support the view that they are derived from shorebirds - a testament to the power of adaptation to the local environment. They are found throughout Africa and central Asia where they feed mainly on seeds. They may have to fly twenty miles or more in search of a water hole to drink, where they can gather in flocks of thousands. When caring for the chicks, they will rub their bellies in the sand to remove the waterproofing oil and allow the feathers to soak up water (the feathers have a particular structure to allow this) and carry it back to the nest.

Sandgrouse are extremely rare visitors to Britain, although a series of irruptions of Pallas' Sandgrouse occurred in the late 19th century (and it is still the only species to have occurred here). The largest was in 1888-89 when many thousands visited in Britain and a few pairs even bred (in northeast Scotland and Yorkshire).

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