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Species Guide

Tawny-faced Quail

Rhynchortyx cinctus

The tawny-faced quail, a member of the New World quail family Odontophoridae, is a diminutive bird, measuring a mere 17 to 20 centimeters in length. Males can weigh up to 165 grams, while an unsexed specimen has been recorded at 150 grams. This species is distinguished by its reddish facial hue and a striking black streak through the eye. The male's plumage features a dark brown crown and hindneck, with a back and rump of gray to brown adorned with black streaks. Its throat and upper breast are a soft gray, transitioning to a tawny buff on the undersides, with a hint of white between the legs.

Identification Tips

To identify the tawny-faced quail, look for the adult male's reddish face with a black eye streak. The female, while similar in pattern, is generally browner with a reddish-brown face and upper breast, and a white eyeline, chin, and throat. The lower breast and belly are pale with black barring. Subspecies variations include R. c. pudibundus, which is paler overall, and R. c. australis, which is darker.


This quail inhabits the lowland tropical forests, venturing up to elevations of approximately 1,450 meters. It is a primarily terrestrial bird but roosts in trees and bushes close to the ground.


The tawny-faced quail has a patchy distribution across Central and South America, with the nominate subspecies found in Costa Rica and Panama, R. c. pudibundus in northeastern Honduras and eastern Nicaragua, and R. c. australis along the Pacific coasts of Colombia and northern Ecuador.


The tawny-faced quail is known to forage by pecking at the ground, searching for seeds, worms, and insects to consume. It is a rather elusive bird, often remaining hidden within its forest habitat.

Song & calls

The quail's song consists of a series of pure, monotonous whistles that vary in pitch, reminiscent of the calls of tinamous or doves. It is particularly vocal at dusk and also sings while roosting at night. Soft peeping calls are used by members of a covey to maintain contact.


Breeding season for the tawny-faced quail includes March and April in Panama, though details of its breeding habits in other regions remain undocumented.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the tawny-faced quail as Near Threatened. It is considered rather rare throughout much of its range, with deforestation and hunting posing potential major threats to its survival.

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Tawny-faced Quails on Birda


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