Namaqua Sandgrouse

The Namaqua Sandgrouse is the only sandgrouse in South Africa with a long and pointed tail

South Africa BirdlifeThe Namaqua Sandgrouse {Pterocles namaqua}

The Namaqua sandgrouse is nothing short of gorgeous, with vivid markings and a stout stature that gives them character. It is also known as the ganga Namaqua, or kelkiewyn (in Afrikaans).

The juveniles and females of the species are less vibrantly coloured and can generally be described as being brown and speckled. The males, however, have a somewhat orange buff head, throat and chest, with brown back and wings that are speckled with large white markings. At the base of the neck are two bold stripes; one white and one dark brown. It is the only sandgrouse in South Africa with a long and pointed tail.

This bird is a ground dweller and is known for its friendly demeanour. They are well adapted to the arid and semi-arid conditions of their habitat throughout Africa, and continue to astound those that study them with their hardy determination.

Quick Facts


Range mass: 200 - 400g
Range length: 28 cm
Range wingspan: 50 - 52 cm.


The Namaqua Sandgrouse is a tough character that thrives in harsh conditions. It favours deserts and other arid areas. In order to survive, this bird needs only seeds, some gravel, and easy access to some sort of fresh water source. Their habitat usually has rough vegetation and tussock-type grasses.


The Namaqua sandgrouse can be found in various arid parts of South Africa and its neighbouring lands. It is common in the Kalahari Desert, the Nama Karoo (in central and western South Africa), and in parts of the Western Cape. In addition, it is also found in Namibia (especially in the Namib Desert), Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola.


The sandgrouse’s primary diet consists of seeds, which it consumes with tiny pebbles or gravel to assist the breaking-down process. However, they are also known to eat flowers, small fruits, insects and even little molluscs, if and when available. Their feeding style has them foraging in the sand with their beaks, flicking the sand left and right in search of tasty seeds. In fact, it can consume between 5 000 and 80 000 seeds per day! Because of this dry diet, the sandgrouse needs fresh water at least twice a day. Finding this in its natural habitat may not be easy, forcing the bird to fly dozens of kilometres to get to their water supply.


These are gregarious birds that are frequently found in large flocks around watering holes, or sticking close together at night. In the day, as they search for food, they may well split into smaller groups.


The call of the Namaqua sandgrouse has been phonetically rendered “klekiewyn”, which means ‘cocktail wine’.


The nest of the sandgrouse usually comprises nothing more than a scraped-out hollow in the earth, not necessarily close to the nests of any other resident birds. This monogamous bird lays eggs all year around, but the laying does tend to peak at certain times, depending on the area in which the sandgrouse is living. Two or three eggs will be laid over a period of a few days, and are characterised by being pinky-grey with brown speckles.

The hen will incubate the eggs during the day, and is then relieved by the male a few hours before sunset. His shift lasts until two or so hours before dawn.

The chicks hatch in an already relatively developed state (precocial). So, as soon as they hatch, they are able to forage, feed themselves and leave the nest. They have all their feathers by the age of three weeks and are able to fly when they are only six weeks old. When they are still tiny, the male bird brings them water, which he accomplishes thanks to the specially adapted feathers on his chest, which absorb water and allow him to carry it back to their nest.


22 days.

Life Expectancy

The Namaqua sandgrouse lives for between five and eight years in the wild.


Predators of the Namaqua sandgrouse include the booted eagle, peregrine falcon, jackals, snakes and mongooses (who love to eat the sandgrouse’s eggs).


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