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Turnicidae – Buttonquail

Small Buttonquail in Mozambique: Photo by Zak Pohlen

Welcome to our guides on the buttonquail family, found in parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia. With 18 species, this family is interesting for its ground-dwelling lifestyle and unique breeding behaviors.

Overview of Turnicidae

Buttonquails resemble small Old World quails more than their shorebird relatives. To differentiate the two, you may need to count toes: buttonquails lack a hallux and have only three toes. Similar to the Plains-wanderer, buttonquails appear to be serially polyandrous, with males being less colorful and taking on all the parental care. Buttonquail chicks grow quickly and can reach sexual maturity in just three months, a rapid growth rate only matched by a few passerines. These elusive birds are not well-studied, but their unique foraging habits create distinct circular patches in the ground cover, providing clues to their presence for those who seek them.