Platelets: Grahame Clark did not use this expression in 1974

To: 'Isobel Crawford' <>, 'Canberra Birds' <>
Subject: Platelets: Grahame Clark did not use this expression in 1974
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 2021 12:55:51 +0000

Yes. I had already made that point on Tue 21-Sep-21 12:36 PM, with this message, copied with some bits deleted.


Interesting thoughts. I simply associated the word ‘platelets’ as a new invention that suggests little plates. That seemed fair enough to me, based on shape, and plate being something to eat from. ……….. As for “Canberra Bird Notes 2 (10): 16-17) cannot be retrieved from the archive on the COG website.” If you or anyone else wishes to see it, I have it here and can scan it for you. It will also be in COG’s official bound CBN set (wherever that is now).  That note did not use the word platelets. …………. Neither article used the name “Button-quail”.





From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of Isobel Crawford
Sent: Saturday, 25 September, 2021 5:22 PM
To: Canberra Birds
Cc: Hince Bernadette
Subject: [Canberrabirds] Platelets: Grahame Clark did not use this _expression_ in 1974


Dear all,


I have just re-read Grahame Clark’s ‘Feeding of Painted Quail’ CBN 2 (10) April 1974. He observed a pair of ‘… Turnix varia, feeding by “spinning”  at Ingalba Nature Reserve ... ’ and described ’the depressions made by the birds …’. He does not use the word ‘platelet’.




Begin forwarded message:


From: Bernadette Hince <>

Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: Platelets

Date: 24 September 2021 at 7:42:52 pm AEST

To: Isobel Crawford <>


Very interested, thank you Isobel, and I'd love to have the earlier string if you can be bothered fishing it out.


love from B'dette


Bernadette Hince

tel 0424 857 284




On Fri, 24 Sept 2021 at 19:38, Isobel Crawford <> wrote:

There has been a longish debate about the word ‘platelet’ to describe the depressions created by Painted Button-quail on the local bird chatline: thought you might be interested. Could send you the earlier emails if you are? Take care, Isobel

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: 24 September 2021 at 4:55:46 pm AEST
To: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW:  Platelets

I wondered what is “Bradshaws hand book ( 19th century)” and found this  : A superb guide to Britain's villages, towns and connecting railways, dating from 1866.'Hard to put down ... truthful and opinionated, often funny but never predictable ... the finest travelling companion.' – Michael Portillo on George Bradshaw. ...


To which I would suggest, “Spatchcock” is a method of cooking chicken, (young chicken I believe), so that, and that this reference probably refers to Europe, where there aren’t buttonquails is very likely about something quite different from this discussion. I suspect the reference to platelet of spitchcock is referring to human culinary practices. Platelet because they are small.


Mark Shephard’s book Aviculture in Australia (1989, I have the 1994 edition), describes this behaviour in some detail for 2 of the included species. It uses the term circular depression.


 I also have just looked through all my books on Asian, Philippine & African birds to references to Button-quail feeding behaviour. Apart from short bits of what, where and how they eat. I found no mention in any of these books to this spinning and scratching behaviour, nor the word platelet or anything that might be equivalent. There are references to their egg laying in a rounded depression.






From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of Richard Allen via Canberrabirds
Sent: Friday, 24 September, 2021 3:39 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Cc: Canberrabirds
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: Platelets


Bradshaws hand book ( 19th century) records “platelet of spatchcock “ at a some quaint establishment in a rural French village. … not



Sent from my iPhone


On 24 Sep 2021, at 2:26 pm, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

Thanks David and Duncan.  Well, what an absorbing exercise for a locked-in day.  Interesting to find that different Australian buttonquail species prefer different foods (seeds, insects), so might vary in details of feeding behaviour.  Most information is available for the Black-breasted, which feeds in deeper litter than Painted.  Pizzey (1980) says ‘when feeding makes “soup-plate” depressions in debris of forest floor’.  That _expression_ was adopted by Hughes & Hughes Aust Bird Watcher 1991, again in relation to Black-breasted, ‘the “soup-plate” feeding depressions’. 


Then, HANZAB, as referred to below, again in relation to the Black-breasted.  That mention of ‘(platelets)’ was published 1993.  Anything earlier?


The mention of Australian National Dictionary raises a question whether we have here an ‘Australianism’, or an _expression_  used similarly  outside Australia, perhaps in relation to other buttonquail species.  Handbook of the Birds of the World vol 3 p 47, speaking of buttonquails generally: ‘A feeding group of buttonquails presents a scene of busily “spinning” and pecking birds, which leave characteristic circular scrapes, or “platelets”, as wide as the bird’s body length, and numbering up to 250 platelets/5m² …’   (That seems like a lot of platelets in 5m².)  That HBW vol was published 1996.


From a quick search I can’t find any reference to platelets in other books about non-Australian buttonquail.

From: Duncan McCaskill <>
Sent: Friday, 24 September 2021 12:59 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Cc: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Platelets


From searching Google Books, the earliest usage of the term platelets for the depressions left by Button-quail is from 1995. It appears to be used in Vol 95, Issue 3, of the journal Emu, in the article The Interaction of Bird Communities with Vegetation and Season in Brisbane Forest Park by Penelope Slater. The actual article is paywalled so I can't check the full context. It is likely that the term was in usage before then, but not so much in print. Someone with better searching skills than me may find earlier usage.


On Fri, 24 Sept 2021 at 11:51, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

Good, here to stay, then.  In light of these helpful comments, I have consulted Kate Burridge who suggests that, if this sense is in widespread use, dictionary editors should be approached to include a new sub-sense.   That will certainly promote a broader understanding of the term.


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Ken Black via Canberrabirds
Sent: Wednesday, 22 September 2021 8:37 AM
To: Mark Clayton <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: FW: Birds into windows


Guess it is a “living language”, and if good enough for ABG (and having seen and heard it being used for many years), I think I also will continue to use it 👍🏻

Sent from my iPhone


On 22 Sep 2021, at 8:21 am, Mark Clayton via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

I agree with Steve and Harvey.


On 21/09/2021 9:43 pm, Steve Read via Canberrabirds wrote:

Hi all – like Harvey, I have no problem with use of the word ‘platelets’ for buttonquail feeding depressions. They look like little plates, hence platelet.



From: Canberrabirds On Behalf Of Harvey Perkins via Canberrabirds
Sent: Tuesday, 21 September 2021 12:12 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Cc: Canberrabirds
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: FW: Birds into windows


Personally, I'd consider the use of the term (platelets) in a bird forum, specifically about button-quail, to be perfectly acceptable. 


Irrespective of the derivation of the term, and the fact that in medical/physiological speak platelet is a non-cellular cell derivative involved in blood clotting (which is also not a well known term in general parlance), 'platelet' has become a well-known term among birders familiar with this group of birds.


I personally have a much bigger 'beef' with the use of alternate instead of alternative, with the use of that instead of who when referring to people, and a swag of other mis-used language.




On Tue, 21 Sept 2021 at 11:12, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

I do hope this will not sound pedantic, but I am raising this as a choice to be made about how we refer to something.  From the viewpoint of general usage, ‘platelets’ is not really appropriate.   My Macquarie   4th ed. says a ‘platelet’ is ‘a microscopic disc occurring in profusion in the blood, and acting as an important aid in coagulation’.


Birdlife Australia’s Birds in Backyards avoids the _expression_ when discussing the habits of the PBQ:


What does it do?


Painted Button Quail are active during the evening, night and early morning, feeding on the ground. They are usually seen in pairs or small family parties, searching for seeds, fruit, leaves and insects. They create distinctive "soup-plate" depressions when foraging, by spinning alternately on either leg and using the other to scrape away the leaf litter, leaving circular depressions in which they look for food.

In relation to PBQ feeding, HANZAB says: ‘Scratch and glean, spinning on alternate legs in litter to create distinctive circular depressions where they feed.  Up to 15 depressions can be made in 1.5m².’  interestingly that observation is from Canberra, Grahame Clark in 1974.  Unfortunately the source (Canberra Bird Notes 2 (10): 16-17) cannot be retrieved from the archive on the COG website  (not by me, anyway)


HANZAB has a longer discussion of feeding ‘depressions’ in relation to the Black-breasted Buttonquail, beginning with ‘Create distinctive crater-like depressions (platelets) in litter …’


So I suppose ‘platelets’ might be here to stay, just as a convenient _expression_. We should remember, though, that it might need some explanation for people who do not know about this special use of the term.




From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Monday, 20 September 2021 9:21 AM
To: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: [Canberrabirds] FW: Birds into windows


Thanks Richard and Jack.  I’ve thought from time to time that this woodland species, with unusual breeding behaviour, does not get the attention it deserves.  Some years ago a friend sent me a pic of a dead one in her paved yard next to Farrer Ridge.  I now think it more likely to have died from an in-flight collision with the substantial house rather than wandered in from the reserve. A look at the archive shows scattered mentions over the years – like the one Alastair S found ‘drunkenly’ walking by the road past FSP (Oct 2005).


Locally, I have come across them mainly on Mount Ainslie, possibly  a stronghold, but they can turn up in most local woodland patches of any size, I’d think.  Factors mentioned as relevant to occurrence include hazard-reduction burning and good rains.


Then there are the distinctive ‘platelets’, an obscure term for the saucer-shaped depressions, typically in soft dry bare earth, they make when feeding.  In the past, Con has mentioned these on Black Mountain.  I’ve also seen them on a hillside at Bluett’s, quite a lot of them.  Noel Luff found those when he was laying out an orienteering course.


The suggested local movements are something else to think about. I sometimes wish the short labels used for the ACT bird list were more colourful.   ‘Uncommon, breeding resident’ might be accurate but could there be room, as well,  for something like ‘crepuscular wanderer’?


From: <m("","jandaholland");" target="_blank">>
Sent: Monday, 20 September 2021 8:41 AM
To: 'Richard Allen' <>
Cc: 'Geoffrey Dabb' <>; 'Canberrabirds' <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: RE: [Canberrabirds] Birds into windows


Many thanks Richard, yes, I had seen those, but in the probably mistaken belief that they don’t fly far had opted for the closer less recent records.  In my experience PBQ are reluctant to flush, much less so than for example the Brown Quail I have been seeing over recent months, though I have experienced them jumping vertically for 3-4 m when disturbed after dark. 


In fact it’s been hard to find any readily accessible information on whether they can fly for any distance, with the HANZAB entry (now nearly 30 years old) noting that “when flushed, fly fast, weaving through the trees ….. usually a metre of two above the ground; usually fly some distance before dropping and running.”   However, it also notes that patterns of dispersal may be linked to seasonal factors such as rainfall ...., and that the Aust. Atlas (RAOU one) claims that individuals may fly long distances. 


While the Birdlife Australia Atlas does not clearly show seasonal movement, this may be because it is related to conditions rather than season.  So it appears that like other species such as crakes which can suddenly appear if conditions are right, they may fly considerable distances to take advantage of conditions. 


Jack Holland


From: Richard Allen <>
Sent: Sunday, 19 September 2021 6:45 PM
Cc: Geoffrey Dabb <>; Canberrabirds <m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Birds into windows


September records from ebird show a couple at each of 3 sites that line up with your place Geoff. Campbell park (Steve H), Isaacs ridge (David D) and Wanniassa hills (myself). 



Sent from my iPhone


On 19 Sep 2021, at 5:26 pm, jandaholland--- via Canberrabirds <> wrote:

Geoffrey, very interesting, it must have been a big surprise.  Checking the eBird Australia records from 2010 reveals single records of single birds at Callum Brae in June 2020 and June 2021, and 2 birds on Red Hill in September 2019, possibly from where yours was heading S.


Around noon yesterday a not so loud bang on our deck window alerted me to a bird which tried to flutter away but then came to rest under the deck table.  I thought it was a female blackbird but on closer inspection the barred tail first alerted me it was an adult Fan-tailed Cuckoo.  It’s the first I’ve had in my Chapman GBS site since the 2003 fires, though there have been a few local records, particularly over the past couple of years, at both Narrabundah Hill and Cooleman Ridge. 


A slightly happier ending though.  After recovering for about 15 minutes, on my approach it flew to a casuarina about 10 m away, where it recovered for another 15 minutes before it was last seen about 10 minutes later foraging quite actively there.  


Jack Holland  


From: Canberrabirds <> On Behalf Of Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Sunday, 19 September 2021 3:58 PM
To: Canberrabirds <>
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] Lock down protocaol for Birders



It was not necessary to leave my LOCAL REGION to investigate the loud THUMP on the window at sunrise this morning.  I found an ex- Painted Buttonquail that must have been commuting south at some speed at about 5m above ground level. Now in the freezer.










Attachment: ATT00001.txt
Description: ATT00001.txt

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the Canberra Ornithologists Group mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the list contact David McDonald, list manager, phone (02) 6231 8904 or email . If you can not contact David McDonald e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU