Family Waxbills (Estrildidae)

Least Concern

African Quailfinch (Ortygospiza atricollis)


French: Astrild-caille à lunettes German: Wachtelastrild Spanish: Estrilda codorniz

Fringilla atricollis


, 1817,



Taxonomy complex. Races often treated as comprising two or three separate species, the plain-backed, plain-breasted “atricollis group” (three taxa), the “gabonensis group” (three taxa), and the white-spectacled, white-chinned “fuscocrissa group” (five taxa). Such treatment supported by mtDNA studies, with the second and third of those groups more closely related to each other than either is to the “atricollis group”; groups do not, however, form genetically monophyletic lineages or differ in vocalizations, breeding bill colour, or nestling mouth markings and colours#R. Treatment as a single species considered preferable (and supported by scores totalling 4–5), pending further study. Proposed races minuscula (described from upper Zambezi at Balovale, in Zambia), intermediate in plumage between fuscata and muelleri, and bradfieldi (from Okahandja, in Namibia), mostly paler than latter, are both synonymized with muelleri. Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. a. atricollis (Vieillot, 1817) – Black-faced Quailfinch – S Mauritania, Senegal (except Casamance) and S Mali E to Nigeria, extreme SW Chad and Cameroon.
  • O. a. ansorgei Ogilvie-Grant, 1910 – SW Gambia, S Senegal (Casamance), Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone E, discontinuously, along coast to Togo.
  • O. a. ugandae van Someren, 1921 – S Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and W Kenya.
  • O. a. gabonensis Lynes, 1914 – Black-chinned Quailfinch – Equatorial Guinea, Gabon E to C DRCongo.
  • O. a. fuscata W. L. Sclater, 1932 – C Angola, S DRCongo and NW & NE Zambia; perhaps SW Tanzania#R.
  • O. a. dorsostriata van Someren, 1921 – E DRCongo, E to W & S Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and NW Tanzania.
  • O. a. fuscocrissa Heuglin, 1863 – African Quailfinch – Eritrea and Ethiopia; recorded once in extreme NW Somalia#R.
  • O. a. muelleri Zedlitz, 1911 – C & S Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and W Zimbabwe.
  • O. a. smithersi Benson, 1955 – NE Zambia (E Northern Province).
  • O. a. pallida Roberts, 1932 – NE Botswana and adjacent NW Zimbabwe.
  • O. a. digressa Clancey, 1958 – E Zimbabwe, S Mozambique and N, E & SW South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    9–10 cm; 9–12·4 g (nominate). Male nominate race is grey-brown above, tail and upperwing brown; face black, small white crescent on chin, incomplete... read more


    Call a harsh, flat metallic "klek" or "klink". Song loud, of harsh irregularly... read more


    Short dry grassland, seasonally wet fields, wet marshy grassland; treeless floodplains, rice fields... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small grass seeds, taken on ground; also filamentous algae, taken from water surface (fish-farm ponds in Nigeria); also small insects and... read more


    Season Sept–Dec in Senegal and Gambia, Sept–Dec and Feb in Nigeria, Jan–Feb in Cameroon, mainly Jan–Apr in Kenya,... read more


    Resident, with some short-distance movement. Seasonal on floodplains and grasslands; in dry season... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common or very common to uncommon; rare in Mauritania. Population in S Mozambique estimated to number a minimum of 50,000 individuals.

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). African Quailfinch (Ortygospiza atricollis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).