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The quick and the dead

June 15, 2022

There are some things in the bush that I never get to see properly because they are gone in an instant. At the top of that list are any species of bird with the name ‘quail’ in it – quail, quail-thrush, button-quail, etc. These birds are usually seed eating ground-dwellers that live and nest in long grass. When walking through the bush I often here the whoosh of these ‘quailey-things’ as they burst from the cover of grass only to disappear back into the grass metres away. I never really get to get a good look…unless they turn up dead.

Pictured above is one such creature that turned up dead under my verandah (probably after hitting a window) last week. It is a Painted Button-quail (Turnix varius), a species I have never seen here before. Species of Button-quail are named after their striking markings e.g.  Red-backed, Chestnut-backed , Buff-breasted, etc. The Painted Button-quail is named for the detailed markings on the wings. The scientific name is derived from the Latin coturnix meaning quail (hence not quite a quail) and varius meaning variegated, referring to the many colours.

Button-quail look like but are not related to quail. They differ from quail in that they are missing a hind-toe and crop. Unlike many bird species the female button-quail is larger and more brightly coloured than the male. The nest is a depression in the ground at the base of a rock or tree and lined with grass. It is built by both sexes although it is the male that looks after the eggs, during which time the female will mate with another male.

Who’d have thought. Such risqué behaviour in the backyard.

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