Family Buttonquails (Turnicidae)

Least Concern

Common Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus)


French: Turnix d’Andalousie German: Laufhühnchen Spanish: Torillo andaluz
Other common names: Small Buttonquail, Kurrichane Buttonquail

Tetrao sylvaticus


, 1789,

near Algiers, Algeria


Closely related to T. maculosus, with which formerly considered conspecific, but differs in colour of plumage, bill and legs. Internal taxonomy rather complex and still somewhat provisional; conspecificity of Asian and African races requires re-evaluation. Nominate race very much larger and more colourful than sub-Saharan lepurana, suggesting that species status may be appropriate#R, although one analysis has found these taxa virtually identical genetically#R; further research needed. Race celestinoi of SE Philippines sometimes referred to T. maculosus: Mindanao claimed to hold two sympatric forms, celestinoi and masaaki, of which former referred to T. maculosus and latter to present species; it is not at all clear, however, that “true” celestinoi-type birds do occur on Mindanao, or that celestinoi and masaaki are indeed distinct; thus, as sympatry of two distinct forms is not demonstrated, on current evidence it appears safer to retain both forms in present species, and amalgamate masaaki with celestinoi. Several formerly recognized races now considered indistinguishable: alleni and arenarius merged into single African race lepurana; mikado sometimes accepted, but considered better merged into E Asian davidi. Nine subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. s. sylvaticus (Desfontaines, 1789) – relictual in S Spain and NW African coast.
  • T. s. lepurana (A. Smith, 1836) – sub-Saharan Africa and SW Arabia (in Yemen, SW Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman)#R.
  • T. s. dussumier (Temminck, 1828) – Pakistan and India to Myanmar; possibly E Iran (unconfirmed).
  • T. s. davidi Delacour & Jabouille, 1930 – Indochina to S China and Taiwan.
  • T. s. whiteheadi Ogilvie-Grant, 1897 – Luzon (N Philippines).
  • T. s. nigrorum DuPont, 1976 – Negros (SC Philippines).
  • T. s. celestinoi McGregor, 1907 – Bohol and Mindanao (SE Philippines).
  • T. s. suluensis Mearns, 1905 – Sulu Is (SW of Mindanao), where known from Jolo and perhaps Sanga-Sanga#R.
  • T. s. bartelsorum Neumann, 1929 – Java and Bali.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–16 cm; male 32–60 g, female 39–74 g; female larger. Small, largely chestnut Turnix with pale eyebrow, rusty breast and innerwings, scalloped... read more


    Apparently throughout wide range, female advertising call is a loud, ventriloquial, resonant c. 1-... read more


    Scrub jungle in Asia, bushy savanna and grass-covered plains in sub-Saharan Africa (sometimes in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, especially of grasses, and invertebrates including ants; usually takes more invertebrates than seeds, or takes both in about equal... read more


    Season Apr–Aug in W Palearctic; all months in Africa (e.g. eggs or chicks in Jan, Jun–Aug and Oct in Uganda, in every month in... read more


    Poorly understood, but seemingly rather complex. Apparently sedentary in W Palearctic. Resident and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Nominate sylvaticus rare and declining towards extinction in W Palearctic; now surviving locally in Cádiz, Huelva and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Debus, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus). 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 23 January 2020).