Turnix nigricollisMadagascan buttonquail(Also: Madagascar buttonquail)

Geographic Range

Madagascar buttonquail are confined to Madagascar (Ogilvie-Grant, 1889). They have been introduced on Mauritius (since extinct), Reunion, and Iles Glorieuses (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991; Ogilvie-Grant, 1889)


Madagascar buttonquail can be found up to 1900 m in elevation in treeless grasslands, some cultivated fields, grassy savannas, open woodlands, and even dense, dry forests. They prefer to frequent areas of their habitat with dark recesses (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Range elevation
    1900 (high) m
    6233.60 (high) ft

Physical Description

Females' wings are 81 to 88 mm in length, while the males' wings are 72 to 82 mm long (Johnsgard, 1991). They weigh from 67 to 84 g. As with other buttonquail, the more colorful female has a black chin and throat, and there are rufous feathers covering the areas on the chest and breast just beyond the upper wings (Ogilvie-Grant, 1889; Johnsgard, 1991). The crown is brownish with small flecks of white, the forehead is barred in black with white, and the sides of the face are white tipped in black. Just below the beak, a white stripe extends down both sides of the throat. The back of the head is a dark gray, and the upper back and wings are blackish, barred in rufous, and edged in buff. The primary coverts are blackish-brown, edged in buff. The mid-wing coverts are rufous, flecked with black, and have irregular black and white spots mostly on the lower edge of the feather. The lower back, rump, and upper tail coverts are a brownish-gray with rufous mottling and wavy black bars. There may be terminal, marginal buff spots. The mid-chest, breast and abdomen are a lightish-gray to whitish color (Johnsgard, 1991).

The male is similar in coloration but lacks the chin and upper chest markings. Instead, his chin and mid-throat region are white, and his upper to mid-chest region are buff with black bars. In addition, his forehead feathers are edged in a wide margin of buff (Johnsgard, 1991). (Johnsgard, 1991; Ogilvie-Grant, 1889)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • female more colorful
  • Range mass
    67 to 84 g
    2.36 to 2.96 oz


All buttonquail are polyandrous.

Breeding occurs in December and January. During egg-laying, the female will walk about and utter a "pairing note" which becomes louder and louder. The nest is a scrape on the ground. One nest was found to be constructed of moss with a 20 cm tunnel which led to the scrape on the ground. Another nest was found to have a tunnel of ribbon grass and moss 30 cm long. A clutch consists of two to four eggs which are 5 to 8 g in weight and 26.8 by 19.8 mm in length. While the female patrols the pair's territory, the male incubates the eggs for 13 to 16 days. (Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in December and January.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 4
  • Range time to hatching
    13 to 16 days

While the female patrols the pair's territory, the male incubates the eggs for 13 to 16 days. Initially the male cares for the chicks, however, within a week the female also takes part in caring for the young. (Johnsgard, 1991)

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


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


Madagascar buttonquail occur singly or in groups of up to four individuals. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Home Range

We do not have information on home range for this species at this time. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Communication and Perception

During egg-laying, the female will walk about and utter a "pairing note" which becomes louder and louder. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Food Habits

In their varied habitats, these buttonquail eat grass seeds and other available weed seeds. (Johnsgard, 1991)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


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

Ecosystem Roles

Madagascar buttonquail have an impact on the plants whose seeds they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

By consuming weed seeds, this buttonquail may aid in eliminating unwanted plants.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

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

Conservation Status

Few records exist of populations from the eastern, western, or northern parts of Madagascar. However, since this bird lives in a wide variety of habitats, it is thought to be common. (Johnsgard, 1991)

Other Comments

Madagascar buttonquail were first bred in captivity in 1913. (Hopkinson, 1926)


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


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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.


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


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


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


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


Hopkinson, E. 1926. Records of Birds Bred in Captivity. London: H.F. & G. Witherby.

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

Ogilvie-Grant, W. 1889. On the genus Turnix. Ibis (6th Series): 446-475.