We most often see the Double-banded sandgrouse while driving along the sandy roads and tracks of central and northern Namibia, as they seem to favour the edges of the road as areas along which to forage. If we are driving slowly they will often allow the car to approach quite close, before running off down the road and taking to flight with characteristically rapid wing beats. Like so many birds, they will typically take to flight very quickly if you get out of the car in order to photograph them!
They are very attractive birds, about 25 cm in length, the males and females being dimorphic in plumage. The males have a rufous-buff crown and neck streaked with black; with upperparts that are brown spotted with white. They have a distinctive white forehead divided by a black band and a double breast band of white over black. The bill is yellow; legs and feet yellowish-brown and eyes are dark brown surrounded by a patch of yellow skin. The females lack the distinctive bands on forehead and breast and as a result are not quite as striking in appearance as the males.
Commonly found in pairs or small groups, the Double-banded sandgrouse may gather in much larger groups at water sources, which they frequent most commonly in the early morning. Although not a noisy bird, there is often a conversational “weeu-weeu, chuck-chuck” carried on at this time. The birds are generally crepuscular (isn’t that a lovely word – crepuscular?) and after their morning activities may spend a large part of the day in a shady spot, feeding again in the evening and even at night.
The Double-banded sandgrouse is a near endemic to the southern African region, its range spilling out of the region into southern Angola and southern Zambia. It has a preference for mopane woodlands and also areas where there are plenty of acacias.
The Double-banded sandgrouse is monogamous and is a solitary nester, making a nest in a hollow scraped into the ground and lining it with plant material. The female lays a clutch of two or three pale pink eggs and the chicks hatch after an incubation period of about twenty-four days.
The scientific name for the Double-banded sandgrouse is Pterocles bicinctus; Pterocles from the Greek for “noted for its wings”, presumably referring to its long wings and rapid flight, and bicinctus from the Latin for “double girdled” referring to the double breast bands. Thus a double girdled bird noted for its flight (or wings), which fits this splendid bird quite well.