This discussion was first published as part of the 2015 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2017 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis breeds in Iberia and NW Africa (including the Canary Islands), and from Turkey east through southern Central Asia to NW China, and south to Iran and Pakistan, with some birds wintering further south in the Middle East and NW India (de Juana & Boesman 2013). It is currently listed as Least Concern, because when last assessed it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.
Globally, it has an extremely large range in both the breeding season (>5 million km2) and in winter (>4 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is poorly known but probably very large, with 21,000–38,000 mature individuals in Europe alone (BirdLife International 2015) and several hundred thousand in Central Asia (E. Kreuzberg in litt. 2008), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be declining slowly, but not sufficiently rapidly to approach the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).
New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) indicate that the species has declined significantly in recent years, and that this decline is ongoing. A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European breeding population has declined overall by 55–75% over the last three generations (16.8 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 5.6 years), driven by steep declines in Spain and Turkey. Consequently, the species is now classified as Endangered at European level (BirdLife International 2015).
However, only around 15% of the species’ global breeding range occurs in Europe, so globally its status depends on trends in NW Africa, the Middle East and especially Central Asia.
Information from elsewhere in the global range:
The Thar Desert was formerly a very important wintering area, with thousands observed at waterholes during the 1980s and historical hunting records indicating its former abundance. Local people report that the species has now been absent for many years, and during an 18-day survey in 2014 the species was absent (A. Rahmani in litt. 2014).
Although the species may always have been somewhat irregular in its appearance in India, its non-appearance for many years suggests a major decline in the visiting population, or just possibly a change in winter distribution, has taken place.
A possible 1,000-1,500 pairs bred in the Negev in 1983-1986 (Shirihai 1996) but the four sandgrouse species breeding in the Negev have reportedly decreased by some 80-90% as a result of continuing land-use change, decreasing rainfall and increased poaching (Perlman 2013).
“Uncommon to locally common” (Thévenot et al. 2003). Not listed on the 2014 national Red List.
Further information is sought about its current population status and recent trends beyond Europe, along with any additional information about the threats affecting this species across its range.
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/euroredlist
de Juana, E. & Boesman, P. (2013). Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com
Perlman, Y. 2013. Sandgrouse monitoring. Israeli birder in Norfolk – Yoav Perlman’s blog http://nubijar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/sandgrouse-monitoring.html
Shirihai, H. 1996. The birds of Israel. Academic Press, London.
Thévenot, M.; Vernon, R.; Bergier, P. 2003. The birds of Morocco: an annotated checklist. British Ornithologists’ Union, Tring, U.K.
The attached PDF shows the map from Kazakhstan referred to by Raffael Ayé in his post of 07 September – please see this for further details.