BROWN QUAIL; IDENTIFICATION & REPRESENTATION.
incident which occurred on Saturday 12 May 2001, revealed shortcomings in the
literature regarding Brown Quail that could have led to an embarrassing
regular monthly survey in April we recorded a new species for the Edithvale
Wetlands southeast of Melbourne -- Brown Quail. This species is rare in the
district and I had not seen one here nor anywhere nearby in 38 years of
that occasion we saw a pair. One was flushed and another glimpsed running along
an overgrown track. Not brilliant views, but good enough we thought arrogantly,
to claim the sighting.
On reaching the
same patch of rank vegetation, my companion advised that he could see a quail in
the wheel rut ahead, but that it was a Stubble Quail! Significantly the upper
parts were boldly streaked with white and there were stripes on the head. Alarm
bells rang and I could see an embarrassing retraction looming. The bird was
squatting in the track facing half away from us. Close examination of the
plumage revealed that on the shoulders, adjacent to each prominent white shaft
streak, was a black triangle. Eventually the bird moved a little revealing bold
brown barring on the flanks diagnostic of Brown Quail! Later, we learned that it
is the females who have the bold shaft streaks like those of Stubble Quail.
A check of
illustrations in the literature again highlighted the need to own and study an
& Day field-guide, normally my favourite regarding bird illustrations, was
no help and very misleading with no indication whatever that a Brown Quail could
ever look like the bird we’d seen. Only one bird, a male, is illustrated. The
illustration of a female in Pizzey & Knight is better but the pale shaft
streaks are too obscure and the bird is generally too pallid. HANZAB was
disappointing in that the shaft streaks in the painting of the female are
insufficiently bold, the head streaks too obscure and the breast too heavily
patterned. The picture in the Slater field guide was by far the best likeness
but our bird was rather darker.
“Birds of Prey & Ground Birds” in the National Photographic Index series has
a photograph of a Brown Quail on a nest. Our bird was similar to this in the
boldness of the pale shaft streaks but the black spot on the inner web adjacent
to the shaft was restricted to the shoulder area rather than being generally
distributed over the whole dorsal surface.
As with many
birds, this species is apparently so variable that many illustrations are
required to cover all morphs. These may be covered in the texts but the quickest
aid to identification is a picture.