Turnix sylvaticuscommon buttonquail

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Small buttonquail range from the Philippines and southwestern Pacific islands (Johnsgard, 1991) westward to Africa (Jackson, 1926) and to Spain (Delacour and Mayr, 1946) and Portugal (Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984). (Delacour and Mayr, 1946; Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984)

Habitat

Small buttonquail are found on dry sandy soil, in open bush, low scrub, in short grass, and fallow cultivated lands (Jackson, 1926). They are found where there is ground cover in which to hide. Suitable ground cover includes dwarf palmetto vegetation, cotton, millet or cassave crops, savanna bush, or stubble fields. Bamboo jungle is favored and dense evergreen forests, deserts and wetlands are avoided. Small buttonquail may be found at elevations of 2000 to 2400 m (Johnsgard, 1991). (Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Range elevation
    2000-2400 (high) m
    ft

Physical Description

One of the smaller button quails, Turnix sylvaticus is approximately 11.4 cm long (Delacour and Mayr, 1946), but may approach 14 to 17 cm (Jackson, 1926). Females may have a wing length of 81 to 101 mm (Johnsgard, 1991; Jackson, 1926). The smaller males have an average wing length of 88 mm. Tail length for males averages 39.4 mm, while for females it is 42.6 mm. Tarsal length averages 23.4 mm for males, and 24 mm for females. Wing and tarsal length vary with subspecies. For those other than the nominate, wing length for males and females ranges from 62 to 72 and 68 to 79.5 mm, respectively. Tarsal length ranges from 17.5 to 20.5 mm for males and 19 to 22.3 mm for females. Bill length ranges from approximately 10 to 13.5 mm for subspecies of Turnix sylvaticus (Johnsgard, 1991).

There is a wide range of weights among subspecies of Turnix sylvaticus. Males of the nominate may weigh around 60 g, while T. s. lepurana may weigh around 36 g. Female T. s. sylvatica and T. s. lepurana may weigh on average 70 and 51 g, respectively. Male and female T. s. dussumier may weigh approximately 36 to 43 g (Johnsgard, 1991).

The larger females are generally a finely mottled combination of black, gray, and rufous chestnut above. They have a buff line along the middle of the crown and ocher or golden-buff stripes along both sides of the back. The face and sides of the head are lightly mottled with black on a whitish background. The upper throat and abdomen are white, while the lower throat and breast are rufous chesnut. The sides of the breast have a few black spots and the edges of the wing coverts are a buff-ocher color. Males have the same coloration except they are paler and duller (Delacour and Mayr, 1946). The feet and toes are flesh color (Johnsgard, 1991).

The non-breeding females have fewer black markings, a dull light red nape and deeper rufous coloration on the breast. Non-breeding males resemble non-breeding females except the rufous coloration is duller. Juveniles are similar to adults, but have more spotting on the chest and the white spotting on the upper body and the wings is not as prominant (Johnsgard, 1991). (Delacour and Mayr, 1946; Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • female more colorful
  • Range mass
    36 to 71 g
    1.27 to 2.50 oz
  • Range length
    14-17 (high) cm
    in
  • Average length
    11.7 cm
    4.61 in

Reproduction

During courtship, females utter a booming advertisement call. They adopt a posture and stand at a 45 degree angle with their beak tilted toward the ground. They inflate their esophagus, then utter a steady-pitched one (or two) note call.

Males and females perform front-to-back swaying movements during courtship. The male will adopt a submissive posture toward the female to get the female to preen his feathers. The female will also utter the tidbitting call while offering food to the male.

All buttonquail are polyandrous. (Johnsgard, 1991)

The breeding season varies from region to region. In India, breeding occurs during the rainy season. In Spain, breeding occurs during the spring and summer. In Africa north of the equator, breeding occurs from April to September. In eastern Africa, breeding occurs during two breeding cycles, one from January to June, and one from September and December (Johnsgard, 1991).

Females usually select the nest site and build the nest, although the male may participate in nest-building (Johnsgard, 1991). The nest is a shallow scratch in the ground, lined with a few pieces of grass, and sheltered by a tuft of grass or weeds (Jackson, 1926). Nests are built in vegetation in sheltered areas (Spenkelink-Van Schaik 1984).

Usually four and sometimes five eggs are laid per clutch (Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991). The pyriform-shaped eggs are grayish-white with a pinkish tinge and are densely spotted and speckled with pale purple, yellowish-brown, and reddish-brown flecks. The spotting is thicker at the larger end of the egg. The eggs are 22 to 26 mm by 17 to 21 mm (Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991) and each may weigh 6 g (Johnsgard, 1991).

Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days (Johnsgard, 1991). The male cares for the hatchlings (Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984). During the first two to four days after hatching, the male will tidbit to the chicks to offer them food. The chicks will feed themselves when they are five days old. When frightened, the chicks lie still close to the ground and close their eyes. After 7 to 11 days, the chicks are capable of flying, and at 18 to 20 days old they are independent (Johnsgard, 1991). (Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984)

  • Breeding season
    The breeding season varies from region to region.
  • Range eggs per season
    4 to 5
  • Range time to hatching
    12 to 14 days
  • Range time to independence
    18 to 20 days

For the first few days, only the female will incubate the eggs, after this time males take over the incubation duties. Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days (Johnsgard, 1991). The male cares for the hatchlings (Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984). During the first two to four days after hatching, the male will tidbit to the chicks to offer them food. The chicks will feed themselves when they are five days old. When frightened, the chicks lie still close to the ground and close their eyes. After 7 to 11 days, the chicks are capable of flying, and at 18 to 20 days old they are independent (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male

Lifespan/Longevity

We do not have information on lifespan/longevity for this species at this time.

Behavior

Turnix sylvaticus is considered to be a sedentary species. Subspecies may be locally migratory or nomadic in northwestern India.

These buttonquail enjoy basking in the sun and dust-bathing. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Home Range

We do not have information on home range for this species at this time.

Communication and Perception

During courtship, females utter a booming advertisement call. They adopt a posture and stand at a 45 degree angle with their beak tilted toward the ground. They inflate their esophagus, then utter a steady-pitched one (or two) note call. The call is not related to territorial defense. Males and females utter a trumpeting buzz or growl as a threat to others of the same sex.

Males and females perform front-to-back swaying movements during courtship. The male will adopt a submissive posture toward the female to get the female to preen his feathers. The female will also utter the tidbitting call while offering food to the male. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Food Habits

Grass seeds and insects and their larvae are the main foods eaten by small buttonquail (Jackson, 1926; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984). They are especially fond of ants (Johnsgard, 1991). (Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

We do not have information on predation for this species at this time.

Ecosystem Roles

Small buttonquail have an impact on the prey they eat and the plants whose seeds they consume.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Small buttonquail have been bred in captivity and are often found in aviaries.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of small buttonquail on humans.

Conservation Status

It has been speculated that the subspecies of Turnix sylvaticus that inhabits Spain and Portugal may be extinct, or at least, is extremely rare (Spenkeling-Van Schaik, 1984) and is considered endangered (Johnsgard, 1991). However, world-wide, small buttonquail occur throughout a wide range and do not appear to be in danger. (Johnsgard, 1991; Spenkelink-Van Schaik, 1984)

Other Comments

Previously described species of buttonquail found in the Philippines have been determined to be races of Turnix sylvaticus. These races are T. whiteheadi (Luzon), T. celestinoi (Bohol), T. masaaki (Mindanao), T. suluensis (Sulu) (Delacour and Mayr, 1946), and T. nigrorum (Negros Island) (Johnsgard, 1991). From part of subsaharan Africa (not including the Congo basin to the horn of Africa), Turnix lepurana is considered to be a race of T. sylvaticus (Jackson, 1926) as are T. s. alleni and T. s. arenaria (Johnsgard, 1991). Other subspecies of Turnix sylvaticus are T. s. dussumier (Pakistan, Nepal, India, Myanmar, and possibly eastern Iran), T. s. davidi and T. s. mikado (Indochina, eastern China, and Taiwan), and T. s. bartelsorum (Java and Bali) (Johnsgard, 1991). The nominate T. s. sylvatica is found in the southern Iberian peninsula and northwestern coastal areas of Africa (Johnsgard, 1991). (Delacour and Mayr, 1946; Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1991)

Contributors

Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Janice Pappas (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

polyandrous

Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Delacour, J., E. Mayr. 1946. Birds of the Philippines. New York: The Macmillan Co.

Jackson, F. 1926. Notes on the Game Birds of Kenya and Uganda. London: Williams & Norgate, Ltd.

Johnsgard, P. 1991. Bustards, Hemipodes, and Sandgrouse: Birds of Dry Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Spenkelink-Van Schaik, J. 1984. Notes on keeping and breeding Little Button Quail (Turnix sylvatica). Avicultural Magazine, 90(4): 219-220.