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Marbled Wood Quail

Odontophorus gujanensis

The Marbled Wood Quail, known scientifically as Odontophorus gujanensis, is a member of the New World quail family. This bird is a denizen of the forest floor, where its cryptic plumage blends seamlessly with the leaf litter. Adults typically measure between 23 and 29 centimeters in length, sporting a robust, dark bill and bluish-grey legs and feet. The eye is complemented by brown iris and surrounded by a ring of orange or red bare skin. Both sexes share a similar appearance, with reddish-brown hues adorning the front of the crown and cheeks, and a short, ruffled crest atop their heads. The plumage is a tapestry of greyish-brown, brown, and black, with vermiculations and indistinct paler spotting on the rump and upper-tail coverts. The underparts are a muted brown with subtle buff and darker brown barring.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Marbled Wood Quail, look for the reddish-brown front of the crown and cheeks, and the distinctive short, loose crest. The bird's vermiculated feathers and the indistinct spotting on the rump are also key characteristics. Juveniles can be recognized by their reddish-orange bills and non-vermiculated, reddish-brown crests.

Habitat

This species thrives in the undergrowth of subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and cloud forests. It is a ground-dwelling bird that prefers the dense cover provided by these environments.

Distribution

The Marbled Wood Quail boasts an extensive range across Central and South America, from Costa Rica and Panama, through Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, the Guianas, and into Brazil. It is found at varying elevations, up to 900 meters in Ecuador, and 1,500 meters in Colombia and Venezuela.

Behaviour

An elusive creature, the Marbled Wood Quail is more often heard than seen, with its distinctive calls echoing at dawn and dusk. It forages in small groups, scouring the leaf litter for invertebrates and fallen fruits. When disturbed, it prefers to retreat on foot but can take flight if necessary. Nesting typically occurs at the base of trees, where a shallow scrape is concealed under dead leaves.

Song & Calls

The calls of the Marbled Wood Quail are a reliable indicator of its presence, particularly during the crepuscular hours. These vocalizations are a key aspect of its behavior and ecology.

Breeding

Breeding habits include nesting at the foot of trees in a shallow scrape, covered by a canopy of dead leaves. The clutch usually consists of around four white eggs, which may be spotted with brown. The breeding season varies depending on the location.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Marbled Wood Quail consists of invertebrates and fallen fruits, which they forage for in the leaf litter of their forest habitat.

Conservation status

Despite being adaptable to secondary growth forests, the Marbled Wood Quail faces threats from habitat clearance for cattle grazing and soybean cultivation in the Amazon basin. The species is currently classified as "Near Threatened," with an expected population decline of 25 to 30% over the next three generations due to deforestation and increased hunting facilitated by expanding road networks.

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Marbled Wood Quails on Birda

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