Family Sandgrouse (Pteroclidae)

Least Concern

Pallas's Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus)

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Taxonomy

French: Syrrhapte paradoxal German: Steppenflughuhn Spanish: Ganga de Pallas
Taxonomy:

Tetrao paradoxa

Pallas

, 1773,

southern Tartarian Desert

.

Closely related to S. tibetanus. Monotypic.

Distribution:

Mostly between 40° N and 50° N, from Kazakhstan (extreme S Ural Mts) and N Uzbekistan E through extreme S Siberia and Mongolia to NC China (Gansu), S to NW & WC China (Xinjiang; Kunlun Shan and Qaidam Basin, in Qinghai); sporadically E to Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang (NE China). Recorded as wintering in Nanning area of Guanxi, in S China#R.

Descriptive notes

27–41 cm; male c. 250–300 g, female c. 200–260 g; wingspan 60–78 cm. Front toes feathered, hind toe lacking; long, pin-like central tail feathers; outermost primary longer and attenuated, particularly so in males. Black ventral patch, contrasting markedly with pale rest of underparts; upperparts barred; bluish-grey orbital ring. Male has diffuse breastband; female has narrow black line under throat. Juvenile fairly similar to female, without elongated rectrices or remiges; has brown spots on neck and breast.

Drawing by Hilary Burn
Descriptive notes:

27–41 cm; male c. 250–300 g, female c. 200–260 g; wingspan 60–78 cm. Front toes feathered, hind toe lacking; long, pin-like central tail feathers; outermost primary longer and attenuated, particularly so in males. Black ventral patch, contrasting markedly with pale rest of underparts; upperparts barred; bluish-grey orbital ring. Male has diffuse breastband; female has narrow black line under throat. Juvenile fairly similar to female, without elongated rectrices or remiges; has brown spots on neck and breast.

Drawing by Hilary Burn
Descriptive notes:

27–41 cm; male c. 250–300 g, female c. 200–260 g; wingspan 60–78 cm. Front toes feathered, hind toe lacking; long, pin-like central tail feathers; outermost primary longer and attenuated, particularly so in males. Black ventral patch, contrasting markedly with pale rest of underparts; upperparts barred; bluish-grey orbital ring. Male has diffuse breastband; female has narrow black line under throat. Juvenile fairly similar to female, without elongated rectrices or remiges; has brown spots on neck and breast.

Voice

Commonest calls in flight a repeated, single, abrupt and over-slurred nasal “chup” or “pup”, and the same 3–4 notes in fast rattling series, sounding like “pududup”. In groups, birds call simultaneously, resulting in a constant nasal twittering, reminiscent of a flock of shorebirds. Other calls include a melodic resonant “ten-ten”, a murmuring “tryou-ryou”, a rapid low-pitched “cu-ruu...cu-ruu…cu-ou-ruu”, a bubbling “ker-ki” and “puh-puh-purr”#R.

Habitat

Steppe and semi-desert, with low, sparse vegetation of grasses or shrubs (Arte­misia absinthium, Agriophyllum gobicum); also fallow land and abandoned fields; said to prefer clay to sandy or stony soils; avoids drifting sands and waterless expanses. Occurs on flat or hilly terrain, also in mountain valleys up to 1850 m in Gobi Altai, to 2400 m in NW Mongolia, and to 3250 m in Tien Shan.

Food and feeding

Takes seeds and also some green shoots of many different plants including Leguminosae, Polygonaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Cruciferae and Gramineae. In some areas, at least, also feeds on cultivated grain (Triticum, Panicum). Drinks during morning, 06:00–10:00 hours, but sometimes also in the evening.

Breeding

Laying from mid Apr to Jun. Nests on ground, sometimes sheltered by bush or grasses; often close to other pairs, with nests only 4–6 m apart. Usually three eggs, sometimes two; incubation c. 23–26 days; chick has tawny buff down with blackish mottling and narrow white lines.

Movements

Partially migratory; northern areas abandoned for winter, from Sept/Oct to Mar/Apr; extent of movements depend on amount of snowfall. Irregular irruptions have taken place both in W Europe, notably in 1863, 1888 and 1908, and in N China (1860) and Manchuria (1912/13, 1922/23); causes of such irruptions unclear, but probably related to food supply, in connection with snow cover, prolonged drought, or failing seed crops, rather than with intrinsic demographic cycles. Species bred in several European countries after 1888/89 irruption. See Family Text.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Extensive range and remote, sparsely populated habitat probably make present species relatively safe. Somewhat sporadic in occurrence in former USSR, but nesting territories there said to be densely occupied. Irregular in numbers over vast Chinese range, but very common in certain years.

Recommended citation

de Juana, E. & Boesman, P. (2020). Pallas's Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/54082 on 24 January 2020).