Red-backed Button-quail At Broome

On Saturday 6th April 1996 I believe that I flushed a Red-backed Button-quail on the edge of Roebuck Plain behind the Broome Bird Observatory.  I have previously seen Brown Quail, Little Button-quail and Red-chested Button-quail in the same area.

The location is reached by walking along the Malurus Trail down the fence line, past the gate down to the fence corner where the track takes a bend to the right.

I reached the corner at about 16:30.  My intention was to flush quail from the short to medium length grass. I had heard that Red-backed Button-quail had been seen here once or twice before.

At about 16:45 I saw a small quail just as it crossed the track and disappeared into the grass.  I spent a while looking for it and trying to flush it but without success.  I then spent some time walking out on to the salt marsh on the other side before coming back about 17:10.  I soon heard what I had previously been told is a button-quail call of a series of deep ‘oom’s slightly accelerating at the end of about 8 to 10 calls.  I walked through the grass to where I thought the call came from but again I had no success.  I tried imitating the call and I got a response about 30 metres away.  I walked over but again I had no success.  I imitated the call and again I got a response about 20 metres away.  Again I had no success.  I imitated the call again and got another response.  This time I ran towards the call and a small quail flushed from close to me.

I got on to it with binoculars when it was about 15 metres away and it flew back across the track and landed near the fence about 50 metres away.  The obvious features were its small button-quail size, its darkish (compared to Little Button-quail) colour above except for very distinct yellowish inside wings and pale orange under colour very unlike the white of Little Button-quail or deep orange of the female Red-chested Button-quail.

This meant that it was either a male Red-chested Button-quail or a Red-backed Button-quail.  The yellowish inside on the upper wing was very distinct which is why I believe that it was a Red-backed Button-quail.  I didn’t see any red behind the neck but I could have missed it, or maybe that means it was a male.

I quickly went over to where it landed but I could not flush it again.

I tried again with two other people the next day but we couldn’t flush any quail in this area, although we put up 3 to 5 Red-chested Button-quail (male and female) within 500 metres or so out on the main plain.  The female is unmistakable, and the male is a pale orange underneath and darkish above.  We spent over an hour trying to flush quail in the grass.  I didn’t hear any calls even when I tried to imitate the call.

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002