What's in a Name?

The common name, button quail, frequently leads to mass confusion. When breeders or fanciers begin to look for information on this little fellow, they are in for a surprise. The name for this bird is "button quail" only in avicultural circles, and then mainly in North America. In any field guide or ornithological reference, the button quails, often spelled button quail, are a genus of birds related to the rails in the family Turnicidae, order Gruiformes, and they are not true quails at all. They are often also called hemipodes, and these are certainly not the little button quails of aviculture. Our button quail in aviculture are in the family Phasianidae, order Galliformes. If you consult two references for the scientific name of the button quail, you are likely to come across two different names for the birds of this species: Excalfactoria chinensis and Coturnix chinensis. The first name was an older scientific name for the button quail, now accepted by most authorities as the current scientific name. The other name was used for many years, however. Only one other species, the blue quail (E. adansoni), is also classified in this genus. The blue quail is found in the eastern part of Africa.

The button quail is found over a wide area from India to China, Malaysia and Australia. Field guides to the birds of these areas will often list our button quail as either the painted quail or the blue-breasted quail. In their native areas, the button quails live in grassy areas that are fairly open. They fly only when flushed from their cover and then drop into the grass a short distance away. They seem to prefer grassy areas of dampness near water, and you will find them most often in poorly drained, grassy clearings and meadows. Since they hide so easily in the grass, they are rarely seen. A beaten path in a damp meadow of long grass is probably the best place to look for them. If you are a lucky observer, you will catch a glimpse of them scurrying along the path. Several mutations of the button quail colors are now available. The most common is the silver button quail. The males of both the normal and silver mutation are easily sexed, as they have a bold pattern of white on the face and neck. Young birds of both of these colors begin their molt into adult plumage long before they are of full adult size. This makes sexing this species quite easy.


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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