Little Button-quail

Did you know?

In captivity if the enclosure is too small these birds can become agressive. Males may fight each others offspring. The female may kill the offsping so that male will remate, and the female may also kill the male.

The Little Button-quail has a loud booming call, "oo-ah" or 'coo-oo", usually uttered at night. This can go on for several minutes at a time. It also utters a squeaking call, consisting of two or three "chip-chip-chip" notes when flushed.
Facts and Figures
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Clutch Size: 
15 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Little Button-quail is a small reddish brown bird  with narrow white streaks on its upper parts. It is most often seen in flight when its distinctive white flanks are visible. It has a blue-grey beak, pink legs and feet, and pale eyes. The female is larger and more brightly coloured than the male. When disturbed it scuttles through the grass or flies low with whirring wings often showing its white flanks before it drops to cover. This bird is also known as Butterfly, Button, White-bellied Quail or Turnix.

Similar species: 

The Little Button-quail is easily distinguished from other button-quail and small quail, when flying, by its distinctly reddish brown or pinkish toned upperbody and the contrasting tones between parts of its wings. The Red-chested Button-quail, T. pyrrhothorax, by contrast is a uniform grey-brown on its upper side and has orange-chestnut flanks. The Red-backed Button-quail, T. maculosus, is a darker slate-grey or blackish on its upper side and has dark underparts except for a contrasting wing panel .

Where does it live?

The Little Button-quail is mainly found in inland regions of all states, but only one has been recorded in Tasmania, and is usually not found near the coast in eastern Australia. It is not found north of 19*S in Queensland. It is found west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales, but rarely east of it. In Victoria it is rarely found towards the southeast. It is widespread in South and Western Australia and in much of the Northern Territory.


The Little Button-quail is found in grasslands and woodlands of tropical and temperate regions, particularly in the arid and semi-arad areas. It is rare at higher altitudes and in ranges near the coast.

Seasonal movements: 

The seasonal movements of Little Button-quail are not well understood. There appears to be migration between inland arid regions to semi-arid areas nearer the coast, from winter to spring and summer. Some populations seem to remain in one area all year round, in some years, and some authorities claim the species is nomadic. The amount of movement is influenced by factors such as rainfall, plant growth and food availability. 

What does it do?

Little Button-quail eat seeds, especially grass seeds, young plants and insects. They mainly feed at night, on the ground and do a lot of scratching.


The Little Button-quail builds its nest on the ground where suitable cover can be found, such as under overhanging grasses, small shrubs or fallen branches. The nest is located in such areas as sparse woodland, cereal crops, and at the edges of damp areas. The nest itself is a scrape in the ground lined with grass or fine sticks, It sometimes has a hood and has a tunnel-like track leading to the entrance. Incubation is carried out by the male bird, who also does all the brooding and feeding of the chicks. Breeding is probably seasonal in southern and eastern Australia but Little Button-quail will breed at any time of year after rains provide good conditions. In south-east Australia breeding is from September to March. In Western Australia it is usually from August to December, but in wet years it can go from March to November

Living with us

Early in the 20th Century Little Button-quail were common on the inland plains of eastern Australia and Western Australia, but they are now rare in some areas because of agricultural and pastoral development and the degeneration of native grasslands. Many are killed by by harvesting machinery in the harvest season.

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