Quail and Button-quail

To: 'Geoffrey Dabb' <>, 'Canberrabirds' <>
Subject: Quail and Button-quail
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2021 01:50:24 +0000

Following on earlier comments. Since then I have discovered that if you do an internet search on “Button Quail”, prominent on the list of sites are those that cater to the aviculture / poultry, hobby / industry. These appear to be American. However it is quickly clear from the photos and information, that they are referring to domesticated King Quail. King Quail are of course true quails, not Button-quails. King Quails do well in captivity and have been selectively bred with many colour variations, as do many of the pheasant family (chicken, pheasants, peafowl, turkey). In contrast, I see little evidence that any button-quail do well in captivity. The difference of a hyphenated group name (I prefer the hyphen) to a wrong non-hyphenated species name is there, but it is surely a source of confusion. I don’t know how the names got confused but it appears to be connected to that King Quail are particularly small. The _expression_ “cute as a button” appears there.  There is a precedent, the Americans earlier called their vultures (which are actually a different group from “true” vultures), buzzards and call their buzzards, hawks.


Another thing, going back to the Painted Button-quail locally. I have been sort of impressed with all the mentions. In the 38 years I have been a resident of Canberra, I believe I have only encountered Painted Button-quail(s) (at least to be able to identify) on two occasions, within the COG AOI.




From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of Philip Veerman
Sent: Tuesday, 21 September, 2021 3:56 PM
To: 'Geoffrey Dabb'; 'Canberrabirds'
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Quail and Buttonquail


Yes but the name Button-quail is much older than 1978. That 1978 book refers to “Button-quail. Used widely in international literature as the group name for the species of Turnix”. (This sentence preceding your quote.)  My story following, verifies that the word “seems” (as in your quote) is and always was an understatement.  


One of my favourite bird stories and I might have posted this before. It relates to the first time I visited Canberra, in I think 1971. I was then as involved with aviary birds as wild birds and I set about wandering the streets looking for aviaries and introducing myself. There seemed to be a lot at that time (somewhere in inner north suburbs). I met several such people and that led to other invitations and attending a bird show somewhere. One chap had recently bought a pair of “Painted Quail”. From someone else who had tried to get them breeding, but with no success. Anyway he was rebuilding and vegetating a big aviary for them and whilst doing that had both birds in a holding cage in his garage. They showed no interaction that I could detect. In between looking at all his other birds, I thought they looked too different. I went back to check them again. Fortunately I had Slater’s field guide (non passerines) with me. I could then see one bird had a hind toe and the other didn’t. From that book I could show this chap that his birds are totally different (more different than trying to mate a mare with a cow or a bull with a stallion). One was a Painted Button-quail and the other a Stubble Quail. I don’t know what sex. Actually the sex of the birds was irrelevant as they have different mating systems anyway. He was surprised, relieved, maybe a little annoyed that a 14 Y.o. drop in visitor from Melbourne had pointed out his folly and that of the person he bought these two birds from. He was going to pass on the news to the person he bought them from.


I doubt this fellow would be alive now.


I think this same fellow was nervous about having his birds found by one of the inspectors as he also had recently acquired an illegally imported pair of Saffron Finches that were housed in yet another room (or that is what he told me).




From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Tuesday, 21 September, 2021 2:22 PM
To: Canberrabirds
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Quail and Buttonquail


Thank you Philip. I thought you might have the old issues.  You and I remember when they were all ‘quail’.  ‘Button-quail’ came in with the new 1978 names for the reason that ‘it seems practical and informative to distinguish between phasianid and turnicid quail’.  Each time you look at one of those revised trees the two groups seem to be getting further apart. That arrangement is obscured by the practice followed in the Australian Bird Guide of putting unrelated groups together to make it easier to find them  -   because people expect them to be together, I suppose.



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