Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse -- 栗腹沙鸡 (Pterocles exustus)

Female chestnut-bellied sandgrouse
Loading more images and videos...

Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse fact file

Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse description

GenusPterocles (1)

Although perhaps rather plain in appearance, the plumage of the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) is in fact wonderful camouflage against the sand of its arid habitats. A somewhat small, plump bird, the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse has an unmarked head, dark under-wings, a blackish lower-belly, and a chestnut upper-belly, after which it is named. The dark-tipped bill is slate-blue, and there is a pale green circle around the eyes. The male chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is somewhat drabber than the female, with a pale brown back and a narrow chest band, compared to the female’s more elaborate, mottled back of tan, brown and dark brown. The juvenile lacks the elongated tail feathers of the adult bird, and has more densely barred upperparts. Six subspecies of the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse are currently recognised, and these vary mainly in the colouration of the upperparts (2).

Also known as
chestnut bellied sandgrouse, common Indian sandgrouse, Indian sandgrouse, lesser pin-tailed sandgrouse, small pin-tailed sandgrouse.
Ganga à ventre châtain.
Length: 31 - 33 cm (2)
Wingspan: 48 - 51 cm (2)
Male weight: 170 - 290 g (2)
Female weight: 140 - 240 g (2)

Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse biology

The timing of breeding in the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is heavily influenced by the level of local rainfall, but generally occurs sometime between January and July, except in Kenya and Tanzania where the breeding season is more lengthy, ranging from February until November (2). The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse may produce two clutches a year, the nest being a simple scrape in the ground, holding three eggs per clutch (4), with both the male and female birds incubating the eggs (5). The chicks are active from hatching, soon foraging for food with the adult birds (4), but are unable to fly large distances and so must rely on the adults for water. At a water hole, the adult birds soak up water in the breast feathers before returning to the nest to “water” the chicks - a unique feature of the sandgrouse family. Adult birds can fly distances of up to 16 kilometres per day to find water, gathering in large flocks to drink a couple of hours after sunrise, and on very hot days at sundown (6).

The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse prefers to eat legumes such as beans, but also eats shoots and insects on rare occasions (2).

When a predator is detected, rather than fleeing and risk giving away its location, the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse sits still and relies on its wonderfully camouflaged plumage to conceal itself. It tends to live in small, scattered groups to reduce its visibility except for times when it gathers in often large numbers around watering holes (4).


Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse range

The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse occurs along a narrow strip of sub-Saharan Africa, from the west coast to the east coast, where a larger distribution is found, as well as over much of India and Pakistan. There are also scattered populations along the coasts of the Middle East. The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse has also been introduced in the USA (1).


Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse habitat

The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse inhabits a range of environments, including shrubland, semi-desert scattered with thorny shrubs or trees, arable land and grassland (1) (2), up to altitudes of 1,500 metres (1) (3).


Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse status

The chestnut-bellied sandgrouse is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse threats

Although population numbers are unknown, there appear to be no major threats to the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (1) (3).


Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse conservation

There are currently no known conservation plans targeting the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (1).

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the conservation of birds, see:

 For more information about conservation in the Emirates, see:

 For more information on the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and other bird species, see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International - chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (September, 2010)
  4. Maclean, G.L. (1996) The Ecophysiology of Desert Birds. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
  5. Finn, F. (2006) The Game Birds. Read Books, Canada.
  6. Jerdon, T.C. (1864) The Game Birds and Wild Fowl of India: Being Descriptions of all the Species of Game Birds, Snipe, and Duck Found in India, with an Account of Their Habits and Geographical Distribution. The Military Orphan Press, Calcutta, India.

Image credit

Female chestnut-bellied sandgrouse  
Female chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

© Hanne & Jens Eriksen /

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top