Family New World Quails (Odontophoridae)

Least Concern

Singing Quail (Dactylortyx thoracicus)


French: Colin chanteur German: Singwachtel Spanish: Colín cantor

Ortyx thoracicus


, 1848,

Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico


Many geographical races described, many of them of doubtful validity and/or based on subtle or insignificant differences, the large number of named races reflecting isolation of cloudforests on montane ranges#R. Present treatment based largely on a detailed investigation#R: in Mexico nominate includes lineolatus (EC Mexico), chiapensis includes ginetensis (SE Oaxaca), edwardsi (W Chiapas) and moorei (Cerros Brujo and Socoltenango, in C Chiapas), and dolichonyx includes calophonus (montane SE Chiapas and W Guatemala); elsewhere, salvadoranus includes taylori (Mt Cacaguatique, in El Salvador), and fuscus includes rufescens (San Juancito Mts, in Honduras). Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. t. devius Nelson, 1898 – Jalisco, in WC Mexico.
  • D. t. pettingilli Warner & Harrell, 1957 – SW Tamaulipas, SE San Luis Potosí and N Querétaro, in CE Mexico.
  • D. t. thoracicus (Gambel, 1848) – NE Puebla and C Veracruz, in EC Mexico.
  • D. t. melodus Warner & Harrell, 1957 – C Guerrero, in SC Mexico.
  • D. t. chiapensis Nelson, 1898 – SE Oaxaca E to C Chiapas, in S Mexico.
  • D. t. sharpei Nelson, 1903 – SE Mexico (NE Campeche, Yucatán and NW Quintana Roo), N Guatemala (Petén) and Belize (Orange Walk and Cayo Districts).
  • D. t. paynteri Warner & Harrell, 1955 – SC Quintana Roo, in SE Mexico.
  • D. t. dolichonyx Warner & Harrell, 1957 – Sierra Madre de Chiapas (S Mexico) and W Guatemala.
  • D. t. salvadoranus Dickey & van Rossem, 1928 – Volcán de San Miguel and Mt Cacaguatique, in El Salvador.
  • D. t. fuscus Conover, 1937 – Francisco Morazán highlands (Tegucigalpa Department), in C Honduras.
  • D. t. conoveri Warner & Harrell, 1957 – Sierra de Agalta (Olancho Department), in EC Honduras.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–23 cm; male 180–266 g, female 115–206 g. Toes and claws very long, but overall a small, short-tailed bird that is unlikely to be confused within its... read more


    Loud, far-carrying, rhythmic song (considered somewhat like that of Odontophorus guttatus... read more


    Variable depending on population: subtropical montane and cloud forests at 1000–3000 m; in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small bulbs and seeds, e.g. pokeweed (Phytolacca), and insects including centipedes, crickets, fly larvae, grasshoppers and grubs... read more


    Season may extend from Feb to Oct: birds in breeding condition found during late Mar and Apr; in Yucatán, SE Mexico, nest found in... read more


    Presumably sedentary. Prefers to run (in zigzags) rather than fly in face of perceived danger.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Mace Lande: Safe. Very little information available; total population may number 100,000–500,000 birds. Appears to be locally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carroll, J.P., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Singing Quail (Dactylortyx thoracicus). 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 20 February 2020).