Thursday, 12 July 2012

Barred Buttonquails

Last week saw me regularly visiting Mae Hia Agricultural College, a well known birding spot located just a few kilometres away from the heart of Chiang Mai city. It is a good place for someone with very little time for birding while visiting Chiang Mai. Most of the birds found here are grassland and cultivated area birds. You might find some water and forest birds as well, if you have some time to explore around the college area. Nick Upton of has a really nice introduction to Mae Hia here in this linkThe main spot where I go for birding at Mae Hia is the experimental farm plots lying in the middle of the college area. It is the place where I found and photographed these Barred Buttonquails (Turnix suscitator thai) here in this post.

Female Barred Buttonquail

The much less attractive male

It was a dark overcast day but for me, that's the best weather for grassland birding. Songs of Golden-headed Cisticolas were literally everywhere, and I was extremely glad to hear a Chinese Francolin calling from somewhere on the forest edge. It is the species that used to be fairly common in the area. I remember watching a female bird accompanied by few chicks feeding on the roadside, as well as male birds calling from tall trees in the middle of the fields. All of this have disappeared in the recent years, so I was more than happy to know that they're still somewhere nearby.

The first pair that I spotted

A single male scarily sneaking out from the bush

Finally out in the open!

It was slightly drizzling.

Completely transformed into a ball

As I was driving through the experimental farm plots, I came across a plot where lots of birds including doves, mynas and pipits, were foraging in. It seemed like the plot has just recently been ploughed, so lots of small insects were being uncovered. As I was quickly scanning through the open area of the plot, I spotted a pair of this small Barred Buttonquails running hesitantly into tall bordering grass. I decided to wait inside the car hoping that they'd come back to the same area. The Barred Buttonquail is one of the common birds that I've yet to photograph nicely as they're extremely shy. I've only been able to catch short glimpses of them running across the street or flush them up from the grass. However, this time I could finally get some decent shots of them as a lone male bird turned out to be quite cooperative!

Female is pretty obviously larger.

Crossing the road

There were at least 3 birds foraging in the area where I was waiting; the pair that I first spotted and a single male bird. Buttonquails are interesting also because their sex roles are opposite to most of the birds. Just like phalaropes and painted-snipes, female buttonquails are more colourful and slightly larger than the males. Male birds also take responsibility for incubation and parental care. On that day, I could get quite a lot of decent shots of the male, but I wasn't much satisfied with the female as I could only get one decent shot of it while it unexpectedly showed up just by the car. That was the reason why I had to go back on the next day.


  1. Truly wonderful series on these guys, and you managed a real beauty of the female in the first shot you've diplayed. I don't think I have any shots of any quails, even common brown ones back in Aus. I regard all quail as being impossible photographic subjects. They remind me of a couple of weeks ago when I saw a family of Japanese Greens Pheasants with 3 chicks. They were so fast and elusive and....I FAILED to get them!!! I bet you would have gotten them.

  2. Excellent series on these cute but difficult to shoot quails.

  3. Well done, Ayuwat. I am still trying very hard to obtain good images of this species.