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Species Guide

Red-backed Buttonquail

Turnix maculosus

The red-backed buttonquail, Turnix maculosus, presents itself as a small, stocky avian with a rather compact build. Its wings are rounded at the tips, and it sports a short tail. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with the female being the larger counterpart, ranging from 32 to 51 grams in weight, overshadowing the male's more modest 23 to 39 grams.

Identification Tips

To identify this buttonquail, look for the distinctive blackish head with grey scalloping, a brownish-buff neck, and a reddish-brown partial collar. The upper parts are a slate grey, finely barred with reddish-brown and black. The under-wing is pale grey, and the lower throat transitions from whitish to buff across the breast and belly, with bold spots and scallops on the sides. Females are more vividly colored, with a brighter yellow beak and a more pronounced chestnut collar, while juveniles are notably darker.


The red-backed buttonquail favors rough, tussocky grasslands, woodlands, and cropped lands. It is predominantly a lowland species but can be found at altitudes exceeding 2,000 meters in east-central New Guinea.


This species is native to southeastern Asia and Oceania, with a range that includes Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, and Australia. In Australia, it is found from northeastern Western Australia to Cape York and down to northeastern New South Wales.


Most active at dusk and night, the red-backed buttonquail is a ground-dweller that may be seen alone, in pairs, or small groups. It tends to freeze or run when disturbed and rarely takes flight. Some populations are thought to be partially migratory, moving at night, though their movements are not well-documented.


Breeding occurs between October and June. The nest is a grass-lined scoop at the base of a tussock, often in wet areas. After laying two to four speckled eggs, the female departs, leaving the male to incubate the eggs and care for the young. The female is serially polyandrous, seeking new mates to breed with multiple times in a season.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists of seeds from grasses and sedges, other plant matter, and insects. This buttonquail likely consumes more insects than its congeners.

Conservation status

The red-backed buttonquail is classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN. It has a broad range and is common in most areas, except for southeastern Australia where it is less common. Habitat degradation is causing a decline in numbers, but not at a rate that currently threatens the species.

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More Buttonquail

A photo of a Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator) , male

Barred Buttonquail

Turnix suscitator
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