Painted Button Quail

Turnix varia
Quail scratching at Taylor's, July 2007

Since May (2007) we have had a pair of painted quail visiting us daily but during July we have seen only one at a time. Perhaps Dad is occupied sitting on some eggs? They are beautiful little birds although Camilla complains when they scratch up the mulch over the verandah just outside the living room window.

They look a bit like small pigeons but have a very short tail and much longer and stronger legs with which they scratch a living. They scurry around nervously beneath the bushes doing their best to keep out of sight. When they run across open ground they do so in jerky rushes a metre at a time. As they run the head oscillates backward and forward in time with their steps. While they are scratching in the mulch it is remarkable that they rotate rapidly on the spot. Many of my first photos came out streaky because I did not realise how rapidly they were rotating.

They are small birds with a body length of about 170mm but even so they are many times greater than the 25mm fully grown quail which we often saw in the fields of South Africa.

We had just been 12 months without a sighting until March 2011 when one visited our front lawn very timidly. We suspect that the foxes have much to answer for. In July 2011 two very young ones were running around the house and chicken runs. They were small enough to run straight through the holes in the chicken wire without slowing.