Black breasted button quail

Black breasted Button quail Female

Turnix melanogaster

Large and plump, the black-breasted button quail grows up to 19cm in length. It has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe (different from true quails). It’s named for its black chest, but its other feathers are a mix of brown, black, grey and white with numerous white half-moon markings. The males have a white face and throat, and black on female birds. The quails have a grey beak and pale yellow legs.

Habitat and food

The black breasted button quail lives in areas from central Queensland down to New South Wales. They prefer to make their homes in landscapes with vine forests or shrubs that sometimes get covered in water or are near the coast. They make nests on the ground and mostly eat insects, spiders, beetles and seeds. When searching for food in the leaves and dirt the quails leave shallow circular holes in the ground that are known as platelets.


The numbers of black breasted button quail are dropping and the government and groups like FBA are working to help them recover. The quail is listed nationally as vulnerable, and is under threat from:

  • Habitat loss through forestry, agriculture, infrastructure and building like new roads and houses, industry development, weeds.
  • Cattle and feral pigs destroying or disturbing the ground in areas the quail like to nest.
  • Attack from wild dogs, cats and foxes.
  • Possibly trapping and illegal egg collection.

FBA has funded research to discover more about the quail and find areas of land the quail might prefer, so that these spots can be protected.

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