NAIROBI PARK DIARY

A sandgrouse safari

The “dad” travels far to bring life-giving moisture to their chicks

In Summary

• Sandgrouse belly feathers are specially adapted for absorbing water and retaining it

Black-faced sandgrouse
Black-faced sandgrouse
Image: GARETH JONES

After another dry and dusty night, three tiny little black-faced sandgrouse chicks began to “cheep-cheep” to their parents that they were getting very thirsty.

The sun was just beginning to rise when their father finally took off in a quest to find fresh drinking water, while mother continued to assist the chicks in their daily food-finding lessons.

This sandgrouse “dad” has had to travel over long distances and face many dangers on a daily “sandgrouse safari” so he could bring life-giving moisture to their chicks. After taking a few sips of thirst-quenching water, and lying down in the water to allow water droplets to stick onto his belly feathers, he immediately took off and headed straight back to the family.

Sandgrouse belly feathers are specially adapted for absorbing water and retaining it, allowing adults, particularly males, to carry water to chicks that may be many miles away from watering holes. The amount of water that can be carried in this way is about 15 to 20 millilitres.

There are sixteen known species of sandgrouse on earth. The black-faced sandgrouse (Pterocles decoratus) is a species of bird in the Pteroclidae family. The males have a black mark across the face and onto the throat. Within the Park only the occasionally seen yellow-throated sandgrouse is resident, and the black-throated sandgrouse is a rarely seen seasonal visitor. They are ground-dwelling birds restricted to treeless, open country, such as plains, savannahs and semi-deserts.

The park has a great variety of birds and sandgrouse are one of the amazing creatures found in the park. I always find it a joy to see birds when driving in the park, God has created so much amazing diversity. When you go to the Nairobi National Park the Athi basin dam, in particular, can be very rewarding for sandgrouse sightings in the early mornings and late afternoons, as they go on the daily “sandgrouse safari”!

For information link to the website www.kws.go.ke