Family

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Buttonquails are small birds that are short and thick in build. They have small heads, short necks, short legs, and almost no tail. Unlike most birds, buttonquails have only three toes; the hind toe is absent. Buttonquails have short bills that vary between slender (in species that eat mostly insects) and stout (in species that eat mostly seeds). Buttonquails vary in size from 4 to 9 inches (10 to 23 centimeters) in length and 0.7 to 5.3 ounces (20 to 150 grams) in weight.

Buttonquails tend to be brownish, grayish, or dullish red in color. Their backs are often mottled, that is, covered with spots or splotches, or irregularly striped, helping them to blend in against their habitat. The breast, however, is often red or black and white. Buttonquail females are larger and more brightly colored than the males.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Buttonquails are found in southern Europe, Africa, south and Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Solomon Islands.

HABITAT

Buttonquails live in grassland, brush, and some forest habitats. Although they can fly, they live almost exclusively on the ground, often in grasses or amid crops or weeds.

DIET

Buttonquails are primarily seed-eaters. However, they may also eat plant material, insects, and snails. In order to help grind up their food, buttonquails also swallow a small amount of sand. They find their food on the ground, in litter (the layer of leaves and other material covering the ground), and in low vegetation. In many species, individuals have a distinctive foraging (food hunting) behavior of standing on one foot while scratching the ground with the other, turning in a circle.

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