Burchell’s SandgrouseStudy With Safari Guides in Botswana
What safari guides should know:
The Burchell’s sandgrouse is a bird you will be expected to identify on your FGASA Level 1 field guide course with us. But for safari guides identification is the boring part. The sandgrouse are a fascinating family with 14 African species and 2 Asian representatives. All of the sandgrouse share a wonderful behavioural adaptation to cope with a challenge that stems from a combination of diet and habitat.
Sandgrouse are arid area specialists and with a diet of dried grass seeds they need to drink on a daily basis. If you think of rice as dried grass seeds and what happens when you pour a cup of water into a handful of rice, you can understand the problem these birds face. To digest the seeds the birds must give a huge amount of their water to soften the seeds so they can be broken down.
This is all fine and well for the adults, but what of the chicks that are left behind? Many other species of bird deal with this problem but changing to a sub-optimal diet of insects and other arthropods to provide the moisture. The sandgrouse, however, have their own trick. The males will wade into the water when drinking and soak their belly feathers in the water and absorb a huge amount into the feathers. The outer contour feathers prevent the evaporation of the water in the flight back to the nest. This flight may be as far as 60-80km at temperatures of 30-35 degrees.
On landing the male sands as high as he can on his ridiculously short legs and the chicks scurry in beneath him and strip each individual feather of every drop of moisture.
It is these fascinating things that you learn on your safari guide course in Africa that change your perspective of nature and the wilderness!
This is the only specked sandgrouse in AfricaFGASA Level 1 Course Specialist Birding Course