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Sandgrouse live in some of the most parched environments on earth. To satisfy the thirst of their chicks, male sandgrouse carry water back to the nest in a surprising but effective way: by carrying it in their feathers. Thanks to coiled hairlike extensions on the feathers of the underparts, a sandgrouse such as this Burchell's Sandgrouse can soak up and transport about two tablespoons of liquid. The sandgrouse chicks use their bills like tiny squeegees, “milking” their father’s belly feathers for the water they need.
Sandgrouse - Desert Watercarriers
Written by Rick Wright
This is BirdNote.
Sandgrouse — pointy-tailed relatives of pigeons — live in some of the most parched environments on earth. To satisfy the thirst of newly hatched chicks, male sandgrouse bring water back to the nest by carrying it in their feathers. It sounds incredible, and for decades, scientists thought it was just a myth. But it’s not. In the cool of the desert morning, the male flies up to twenty miles to a shallow water hole, then wades in up to his belly.
The water is collected by “rocking.” The bird shifts its body side to side and repeatedly shakes the belly feathers in the water; fill-up can take as long as fifteen minutes. Thanks to coiled hairlike extensions on the feathers of the underparts, a sandgrouse can soak up and transport 25 milliliters of liquid. That’s close to two tablespoons.
Once the male has flown back across the desert with his life-giving cargo, the sandgrouse chicks crowd around him and use their bills like tiny squeegees, “milking” their father’s belly feathers for water they so desperately need.
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse by Myles E.W North; Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse by Myles E.W. North.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org February 2018/2019/2022 March 2024 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# sandgrouse-01-2016-02-16 sandgrouse-01