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Pterocles namaqua (Namaqua sandgrouse) 

Kelkiewyn [Afrikaans]; Simbote (generic term for sandgrouse) [Kwangali]; Kokoi [South Sotho]; Setlatlawe sa namakwa [North Sotho]; Lekotokobii, Lekwętękwię [Tswana]; Namaqua-zandhoen [Dutch]; Ganga namaqua [French]; Namaflughuhn [German]; Cortiçol da Namáqua [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Pteroclidae

Pterocles namaqua (Namaqua sandgrouse)  Pterocles namaqua (Namaqua sandgrouse) 
Namaqua sandgrouse male, Kgalagadi National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©] Namaqua sandgrouse female, Kgalagadi National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-western Angola through Namibia to patches of Botswana, the Northern Cape and adjacent provinces. It generally prefers gravel desert, sandy semi-desert, open dwarf shrubland and sandy savanna, while especially common in the Nama Karoo and southern Kalahari.

Distribution of Namaqua sandgrouse in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Nomadic and partially migratory, as it is mainly present in Namaqualand and Karoo in summer (September-April) and in the southern Kalahari it is most common in winter (May-August)


It mainly eats seeds, especially of protein-rich legumes, supplemented with flowers, small fruits and fresh leaves. It does most of its foraging in the day with its head held low, rapidly pecking the ground and flicking away soil with its beak. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
      • Indigofera
      • Lotononis
      • Tephrosia
      • Requernia sphaerosperma (red pea)
      • Limeum
      • Giseckia pharnacioides (Volstruisduiwe)
      • Amaranthus
      • Cleome
      • Chenopodium
      • Lophiocarpus burchelli (Sandaarbossie)
      • grasses (Poaceae)
      • daisies (Asteraceae)
    • fresh leaves
    • flowers
    • small fruits
      • Lycium (honey-bushes)


  • Monogamous solitary nester, it is not territorial, with both sexes selecting the nest site.
  • The nest is a simple scrape in the ground, often lined with grit that builds up over time and typically placed adjacent to a small shrub or grass tuft.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from January-May in northern Namibia, April-July in the Namib Desert (Namibia), June-November in the Kalahari, August-January in the Nama Karoo and September-February in the Western Cape.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about three weeks, with the female taking the day shift while the male incubates at night.
  • The chicks are led by their parents to an area with food approximately 12 hours after the last chick hatching, and they quickly learn how to pluck seeds from the ground. The male makes daily trips to a waterhole so that he can soak his belly feathers which the young drink from, only stopping when they reach about two months old. They can fly in short burst at about 30 days old, flying strongly about 12 days later but only becoming fully independent at least a month later.


Not threatened, in fact common and widespread, as it has greatly benefited from the sinking of waterholes. Heavy nest predation and low productivity in the Nama Karoo is cause for concern however, as its South African population decreased during the second half of the 20th Century.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.