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Red-chested Buttonquail

Turnix pyrrhothorax

The Red-chested Buttonquail, Turnix pyrrhothorax, is a diminutive and elusive bird, with a preference for terrestrial life over flight. The plumage of this species is a subtle blend of reddish-brown hues, with the females outshining the males in both brightness and size. These ground-dwelling birds exhibit a strong affinity for the Australian landscape, where they are found scurrying through the underbrush, seldom taking to the skies.

Identification Tips

When observing the Red-chested Buttonquail, one may note its compact size, ranging from 12 to 16 centimeters in length. The male typically weighs between 27 and 46 grams, while the female is slightly heavier at 31 to 83 grams. The bird's upper-wings and back present a pale grey appearance when viewed from behind, but a rufous wash is evident from the side. Close inspection reveals a stout blue-grey beak, pinkish legs and feet, and pale eyes. The female's underparts are a more vivid rufous, extending to the sides of her head, with dense barring on the flanks.


The Red-chested Buttonquail favors dense grasslands and open, grassy woodlands, particularly those dominated by Acacia, river red gum, and Black box or Melaleuca. These habitats provide the bare ground and leaf litter that are essential for the bird's survival, ranging from sea level to elevations of 1000 meters.


Endemic to Australia, the Red-chested Buttonquail is widespread, though uncommon, across New South Wales, Queensland, northern Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. It is notably absent from Tasmania and is considered vulnerable in Victoria.


This species is known for its ground-based lifestyle, foraging for seeds and insects throughout the day. They create distinctive platelets in the leaf litter as they forage, rotating on one foot while raking with the other. The Red-chested Buttonquail may be observed alone, in pairs, or in small groups.

Song & Calls

The female Red-chested Buttonquail emits a distinctive "oom" call during courtship, which escalates in pitch and intensity. When alarmed, the birds produce a sharp chattering sound, and they also communicate with soft whistles and chirrups. Juveniles, when handled, may let out a faint, chicken-like call.


Breeding occurs in various grassland habitats, with the female constructing a grass-lined nest sheltered by tussocks. The species is known for its polyandrous mating system, with the female mating with multiple males. Males are solely responsible for incubation and chick-rearing.

Similar Species

The Red-chested Buttonquail can be distinguished from the Little Buttonquail by its uniform grey-brown upper side and orange chestnut flakes, and from the Red-backed Buttonquail by its lack of dark slate-grey or blackish tones on the upper side.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists of seeds from grasses and various insects, including cockroaches, ants, and their larvae. The birds are active foragers, both during the day and at dusk.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Red-chested Buttonquail as Least Concern, though its status varies by Australian state. Habitat loss poses the greatest threat to this species, particularly the destruction of native grasslands for agriculture. Conservation efforts focus on managing and preserving the bird's preferred habitats, including tussock grass and woody debris.

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Red-chested Buttonquails on Birda

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Profile picture for Bryn Pickering
Bryn Pickering
30 Apr 2023 - 2:56pm

More Buttonquail

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

Barred Buttonquail

Turnix suscitator
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