Brown Quail ID

Subject: Brown Quail ID
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 18:03:39 +1000
Some people had trouble with my original posting of this so I am having another go. 


     An incident which occurred on Saturday 12 May 2001, revealed shortcomings in the literature regarding Brown Quail that could have led to an embarrassing mistake.

    On our 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 birding. On 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 extensive library.

    The Simpson & Day field-guide, normally my favourite regarding illustrations, was no help and very misleading with no indication 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.

The volume “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.

                                                            Mike Carter.



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