Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Painted Button-quail chick found in Kangaloon

Image alert - photos of a dead bird are shown today.
If you do not wish to see these images, please come back tomorrow.

As sometime happens I find a dead bird which is sufficiently rare or unusual that I decide to publish some photos of it. There is nothing offensive or gross in these images. I am publishing them out of scientific interest, and to establish a breeding record for this species, in Kangaloon. 

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This bird is a juvenile of a Painted Button-quail (Turnix varius). That constitutes a breeding record for Kangaloon, (Tourist Road, outside the gate of the SCA Fire Trail 2A). The habitat is mixed Scribbly Gum and Stringybark Forest, with native grass and Pea Plants (Bitter Pea especially) and mixed Proteaceous scrub undergrowth. Sandstone soil substrate.

This is how the bird looked when it was found.
The body feathers near the legs are very "downy"
which confirms the juvenile status of this bird.

For a size comparison, it is roughly the 
size of a "Chicken" (of the domestic hen)
at about one week old.
Typical of ground-nesting birds,
this chick had very well developed legs and feet.
Dead chick of Painted Button-quail
The three toes of this bird are very strong, and although it is just a few weeks old, the toe nails of this chick are showing some signs of wear. The toe nails are very thick, and heavy. they are quite different from the needle-like nails of most perching birds, or especially the birds of prey - hawks and owls. These toes are built for walking, not for grasping either a perch, or for capturing prey.
It is reported that the young of the Painted Button-quail can fly within two weeks of hatching, so I assume this bird was capable of flying.
The feet (3 toes only) are diagnostic of Button-quails
The hind toe of Button-quails is reduced to a remnant callus. 
This is clearly visible in this image. 
Click to enlarge image.
Here you can see the callus which is the remnant hind toe.
As the local small black ants were swarming over this corpse already, I returned it to the same spot, to complete the recycling process which Nature had initiated.

Incidentally, as the head and body was more or less intact, I conclude that the bird was not killed by a fox, which would be the chief threat to a ground-nesting bird like this Button-quail.

Wikipedia has some interesting notes about Button-quails. They are not closely related to true quails. In fact, DNA analysis now indicates that they are an aberrant form of shore-birds (waders) which have adapted to a life in dry country. 

There is an article in the Wires (Northern Rivers) website which discusses their unusual sex role reversal from the norm, namely the females are more brightly coloured than males, and they "hold and defend their territory" and after laying eggs, the male takes charge of raising the young.

You may watch a video by Tom Tarrant of a Painted Button-quail feeding as it walks along quickly, in a native garden in Queensland. Watch how quickly it walks away at the end of this brief video. 

Good legs and feet, as you can see from my photos.


Neil said...

Thanks Denis for a very interesting post.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Neil
Glad you found it interesting.