Ortyxelos meiffreniilark buttonquail(Also: quail-plover)

Geographic Range

Lark quail range from Senegal east to central Sudan and northern Kenya. Some sitings have been reported in coastal areas as well. (Johnsgard, 1991)


In general, these birds are adapted to dry habitats. They are found in arid to semi-arid grasslands, bushed grasslands, thin scrub, and acacia savanna. In Sudan and Chad they are found in sandy grasslands which have sandburs and needlegrass. In coastal regions of Gambia and Ghana, they are present only in the cool, dry season. They are found in other parts of their range during the wet season (Johnsgard, 1991). Lark quail may be found from 1200 to 2000 m in eastern Africa (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Range elevation
    1200 to 2000 m
    3937.01 to 6561.68 ft

Physical Description

Average wing length for males and females is 73 and 77.8 mm, respectively. Male tail length averages 30.3 mm, the average for females is 34.8 mm. Tarsal length for males averages 18 mm, and females average 19 mm. Lark quail weigh 15.7 to 19.5 g (Johnsgard, 1991).

For the male, the uppermost parts of the head and nape region are rufous brown with feathers edged in a thin band of black then cream. Their face is cream with a golden buff tint, and an eye streak is present from the back of the eye to the side of the neck. The throat is white with feathers tipped in pale golden buff. The breast is golden buff with spotted rufous brown feathers with white-tipped edges. The lower abdomen is cream that becomes white on the flanks and underside of the tail. The back is mostly rufous brown with feathers edged with black and cream fringing. Black and cream streaking is present on the uppermost parts. The rump and upper tail are pale rufous brown with feathers tipped with buff. The outer tail is similar to the upper tail but with a dusky brown color on the outermost feathers tipped with white. Two to three transverse cream bars bordered in black are also present. The wing coverts grade from the primaries that are blackish to the tertials that are rufous brown with cream tips, transverse cream bars and black edging. Median coverts are cream to white. The beak is yellowish to pale green, and the feet and toes are whitish flesh to flesh or creamy yellow. The female is similar in color with a deeper rufous brown breast and the outermost tail feathers are dusky brown with more broad white fringing. Juvenile birds are similar in color to the adults, except there is more spotting above and more pale coloration overall (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    15.7 to 19.5 g
    0.55 to 0.69 oz


Polyandry is thought to be common amoung other members of this family, however, it is not evident in this species. (Campbell and Lack, 1985; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

The breeding season is January, March and September to December in Senegambia, January in Sudan, and December to January in Kenya. Breeding occurs in March in Ethiopia and winter in Ghana (Johnsgard, 1991). When it is cool and dry, breeding occurs in inland and coastal regions (Madge and McGowan, 2002).

The nest is a shallow depression in firm sand and in light, open vegetation (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002) and is sometimes encircled with small stones (Madge and McGowan, 2002). Two eggs are laid per clutch (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002). Eggs are cream colored with black, brown and grey blotching (Madge and McGowan, 2002). The eggs measure around 17.5 by 14.5 mm and weigh 2 to 3 g (Johnsgard, 1991). Only the male incubates the eggs (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs at different times throughout the species' range.
  • Average eggs per season

Only the male incubates the eggs (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002). We do not have information on post hatching parental care for this species, however, in other members of this family, males are responsible for the care of the chicks once they have hatched. (Campbell and Lack, 1985; Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male


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


Outside of the breeding season, these birds are found singly or in pairs (Johnsgard, 1991). These birds will stand erect and perform a slow rocking motion when not hidden by cover. A crouching posture is adopted when the bird feels threatened. When flushed, the flight pattern is slightly undulating and erratic when ascending, then the bird will drop suddenly to the ground where there is cover (Madge and McGowan, 2002).

Lark quail are partially nocturnal. They are active during moon-lit nights, sometimes uttering their low whisling call. In western Aftrica, lark quail are partially nomadic, while in eastern Africa, they are locally sedentary (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

Home Range

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

Communication and Perception

Lark quail have a low whistling call (Johnsgard, 1991) that sounds like air blown through a pipe (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

Food Habits

Lark quail eat grass seeds, termites and other insects. They can survive where water is scarce or not present because they can obtain sufficient moisture from some of their food, such as termites (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991)

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


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

Ecosystem Roles

Lark quail have an impact on the prey and plant seeds they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

These birds may eat potentially damaging insects.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of lark quail on humans.

Conservation Status

This bird's populations are not known to be in a threatened state (Madge and McGowan, 2002). They are not listed by either CITES or the IUCN. (Madge and McGowan, 2002)

Other Comments

Based on anatomical studies, lark quail are more closely related to the genus Turnix than to shorebirds or galliform birds (Johnsgard, 1991), but may not actually be a turnicid (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1991; Madge and McGowan, 2002)


Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

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



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


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.


union of egg and spermatozoan

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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).


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.


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


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


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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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.


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.


uses sight to communicate


Campbell, B., E. Lack. 1985. A Dictionary of Birds. Vermillion: Buteo Books.

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

Madge, S., P. McGowan. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse: A Guide to the Pheasants, Partridges, Quails, Grouse, Guineafowl, Buttonquails and Sandgrouse of the World. London: Christopher Helm.