Syrrhaptes paradoxus Pallas, 1773, southern Tartarian Desert. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Syrrhapte paradoxal; German: Steppenhuhn; Spanish: Ganga de Pallas.
15–16 in (38–40.6 cm); male 8.8–10.6 oz (250–300 g), female 7.1–9.2 oz (200–260 g). Medium-sized with very long, central tail feathers and white underwing in both sexes. Male mostly rich orange-buff above, coarsely barred with black on back; throat rich tawny; breast buffy gray with scalloped band of black and white in center; belly black. Female buff above, heavily barred with black; below mostly buffy gray; belly black. Hind toe absent; legs and feet feathered, except for soles of toes.
Southern Russia from Caspian Sea to China, including Tibet, and Mongolia. Irrupts sporadically into Europe and British Isles, most recently in 1908.
Open steppe and sandy desert, often with wormwood (Artemisia) scrub. In summer, mostly between 4,300 and 10,500 ft (1,300 and 3,200 m) but may move to lower elevations in winter.
Gregarious when not breeding; sometimes in flocks of hundreds, especially on migration, though most populations are sedentary or locally nomadic. Wings have specialized outermost primaries that produce whistling in flight. Flies to water at any time of day but mostly before mid-morning.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Seeds, mostly of legumes. Some green shoots may also be taken.
Nesting occurs mostly from April to June; nesting pairs generally solitary, but adjacent nests may be only 13–20 ft (4–6 m) apart. Nest scrape is on ground among vegetation or in open. Three eggs incubated for 22–26 days. The roles of the sexes unknown in the wild, but in captivity only female incubates both day and night; male sits near female most of time but not on nest. Nothing known of care of the young.
Highly adaptable. Seems to be able to maintain numbers, even in agricultural areas; in no need of special conservation measures.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Possibly hunted for food but appears not to be considered important game bird.
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