Family Buttonquails (Turnicidae)

Least Concern

Red-backed Buttonquail (Turnix maculosus)


French: Turnix moucheté German: Fleckenlaufhühnchen Spanish: Torillo moteado

Hemipodius maculosus


, 1815,



Closely related to T. sylvaticus, with which formerly considered conspecific, but differs in colouring of plumage, bill and legs. Alternatively, may be closely related to T. tanki, although this seems less likely. Race T. sylvaticus celestinoi of SE Philippines often referred to present species on grounds of sympatry of two distinct Turnix forms on Mindanao; this sympatry, however, remains to be demonstrated, and stronger evidence required to justify range extension of present species to include Philippines. Race mayri of present species sometimes synonymized with similar horsbrughi (New Guinea). Formerly recognized races yorki (NE Australia) and pseutes (NW Australia) now considered inseparable from melanotus. Fourteen subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. m. beccarii Salvadori, 1875 – Sulawesi (including Buton I)#R, Muna and Tukangbesi Is.
  • T. m. kinneari Neumann, 1939 – Peleng (Banggai Is).
  • T. m. obiensis Sutter, 1955 – Obi and Kai Is (Moluccas), and Babar (E Lesser Sundas).
  • T. m. floresianus Sutter, 1955 – Sumbawa, Komodo, Padar, Flores and Alor (W & C Lesser Sundas).
  • T. m. sumbanus Sutter, 1955 – Sumba (S Lesser Sundas).
  • T. m. savuensis Sutter, 1955 – Sawu (S Lesser Sundas).
  • T. m. maculosus (Temminck, 1815) – Roti, Timor (including Semau)#R, Wetar, Kisar and Moa (EC Lesser Sundas).
  • T. m. saturatus W. A. Forbes, 1882 – New Britain and Duke of York I (Bismarck Archipelago).
  • T. m. furvus Parkes, 1949 – lowlands of Huon Peninsula (NE New Guinea).
  • T. m. giluwensis Sims, 1954 – mountains of CE New Guinea.
  • T. m. horsbrughi Ingram, 1909 – lowland SE New Guinea.
  • T. m. mayri Sutter, 1955 – Louisiade Archipelago.
  • T. m. salomonis Mayr, 1938 – Guadalcanal (SE Solomon Is).
  • T. m. melanotus (Gould, 1837) – N & E Australia, from NE Western Australia (Kimberley Range) E to Northern Territory (Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt), and from E Queensland N to Cape York and S to NE New South Wales, including islands in Torres Strait, Great Barrier Reef and Fraser I.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–16 cm; male 23–39 g, female 32–51 g; female larger. Considerable geographical overlap with T. velox and T. pyrrhothorax, but differs... read more


    Advertising call, mainly by female and given day and night in spring, is a subdued and slightly... read more


    Rank grassland, crops and sedgeland; also grassy ground cover in woodland, often moist or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, e.g. of grasses, Vicia, Swainsona, Polygonum aviculare, Rumex; also green shoots and... read more


    Season Oct–Jun. Solitary breeder; females sequentially polyandrous (at least usually, and in captivity, where lays second clutch 14... read more


    Poorly known; apparently some populations resident (probably those on islands and in areas of high... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon in E Australia, where population apparently subject to long fluctuations in SE Queensland, but has apparently all but... read more

    Recommended citation

    Debus, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Red-backed Buttonquail (Turnix maculosus). 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 17 February 2020).