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Black-breasted Button-quail male inskip.JPG
Black-breasted buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Turnicidae
GR Gray, 1840
Turnicidae rangmap.PNG
Distribution of the buttonquails

Buttonquail or hemipodes are members of a small family of birds, Turnicidae, which resemble, but are unrelated to, the quails of Phasianidae. They inhabit warm grasslands in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. There are 18 species in two genera, with most species placed in the genus Turnix and a single species in the genus Ortyxelos.

Buttonquails are small, drab, running birds, which avoid flying. The female is the more richly colored of the sexes. While the quail-plover is thought to be monogamous, Turnix buttonquails are sequentially polyandrous; both sexes cooperate in building a nest in the earth, but normally only the male incubates the eggs and tends the young, while the female may go on to mate with other males.


The genus Turnix was introduced in 1791 by French naturalist in Pierre Bonnaterre.[1] The genus name is an abbreviation of the genus Coturnix.[2] The type species was subsequently designated as the common buttonquail.[3]

The buttonquail family, Turnicidae, was introduced in 1840 by the English zoologist George Robert Gray.[4][5] The buttonquails were traditionally placed in Gruiformes or Galliformes (the crane and pheasant orders). The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy elevated them to ordinal status as the Turniciformes and basal to other Neoaves either because their accelerated rate of molecular evolution exceeded the limits of sensitivity of DNA-DNA hybridization or because the authors did not perform the appropriate pairwise comparisons or both. Morphological, DNA-DNA hybridization and sequence data indicate that turnicids correctly belong to the shorebirds (Charadriiformes).[6][7][8] They seem to be an ancient group among these, as indicated by the buttonquail-like Early Oligocene fossil Turnipax and the collected molecular data.[8]


The buttonquails are a group of small terrestrial birds. The smallest species is the quail-plover, the only species in the genus Ortyxelos, which is 10 cm (3.9 in) in length and weighs only 20 g (0.71 oz). The buttonquails in the genus Turnix range from 12 to 23 cm (4.7–9.1 in) in length and weigh between 30 to 130 g (1.1–4.6 oz). They superficially resemble the true quails of the genus Coturnix, but differ from them in lacking a hind toe and a crop. The females of this family also possess a unique vocal organ created by an enlarged trachea and inflatable bulb in the esophagus, which they use to produce a booming call.[9]


Buttonquails are unusual in that females are serially polyandrous. The nest is a scape on the ground often near overhanging vegetation. The female lays a clutch of 4 or 5 eggs and then looks for a new mate. The male incubates the eggs which hatch synchronously after 12 to 15 days. The precocial chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and are cared for by the male. They can fly at two weeks of age and become independent at four weeks. For the smaller species sexual maturity is reached at three months.[9]


Family: Turnicidae



  1. ^ Bonnaterre, Pierre Joseph; Vieillot, Louis Pierre (1823). Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique des trois règnes de la nature: Ornithologie (in French). Vol. Part 1. Paris: Panckoucke. pp. lxxxii, 5-6. Although the title page bears the date of 1823 the section (livraison) containing the description was published in 1791. See: Dickinson, E.C.; Overstreet, L.K.; Dowsett, R.J.; Bruce, M.D. (2011). Priority! The Dating of Scientific Names in Ornithology: a Directory to the literature and its reviewers. Northampton, UK: Aves Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-9568611-1-5.
  2. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 393. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1934). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 142.
  4. ^ Gray, George Robert (1840). A List of the Genera of Birds : with an Indication of the Typical Species of Each Genus. London: R. and J.E. Taylor. p. 63.
  5. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Vol. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. pp. 112, 178, 237.
  6. ^ Paton TA, Baker AJ, Groth JG, Barrowclough GF (2003). "RAG-1 sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships within charadriiform birds". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 29 (2): 268–78. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00098-8. PMID 13678682.
  7. ^ Fain, Matthew G. & Houde, Peter (2004). "Parallel radiations in the primary clades of birds" (PDF). Evolution. 58 (11): 2558–73. doi:10.1554/04-235. PMID 15612298. S2CID 1296408. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-07.
  8. ^ a b Paton TA, Baker AJ (2006). "Sequences from 14 mitochondrial genes provide a well-supported phylogeny of the Charadriiform birds congruent with the nuclear RAG-1 tree". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 39 (3): 657–67. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.01.011. PMID 16531074.
  9. ^ a b Debus, S.J.S. (1996). "Family Turnicidae (Buttonquails)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 44–59. ISBN 978-84-87334-20-7.

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