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Common buttonquail

Turnix sylvaticus

Photo by Jugal Tiwari (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
common buttonquail (en); toirão (pt); turnix d’Andalousie (fr); torillo andaluz (es); laufhühnchen (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Turnicidae

This species is found in several disjunct areas. The subspecies T.s. sylvaticus is found in southern Spain and north-western Morocco, and the subspecies T.s. lepurana is found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and also in south-western Yemen and extreme south-western Saudi Arabia. The subspecies T.s. dussumier and T.s. davidi are found from eastern Pakistan, throughout India and into southern China, Taiwan and Indochina. There are also several endemic subspecies in the Philippines and in the Indonesian islands of Java, Bali and smaller nearby islands.

These birds are 13-17 cm long and weigh 30-70 g.

The common buttonquail is found in dry grasslands and scrublands, particularly in areas with sandy soils, also using arable land and scrubby savannas. They occur from sea level up to an altitude of 2.400 m.

They feed on small invertebrates and seeds, particularly ant and grass seeds.

Common buttonquails can breed all year round, varying among different parts of their range. They are sequentially polyandrous, meaning that females mate with several males, each taking care of one brood. The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a shallow scrape on the ground, lined with a few pieces of grass and often sheltered by a grass tuft. There, the female lays 4-6 greyish-white or pinkish eggs with purple and brownish spots and speckles, which are incubated for 12-15 days. The female incubates the first few days, after which she leaves, leaving the male responsible of the remaining incubation and chick-rearing duties. The chicks fledge 18-20 days after hatching, but are able to make short flights already at 7-11 days of age. Each male raises a single brood per season.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and is reported to vary from scarce to locally abundant. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation and the small remaining population in Europe may be very close to extinction.

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