Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Turnix olivii
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii (Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith, 2009a) [Recovery Plan] as Turnix olivii.
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Turnex olivei.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (11/04/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007f) [Legislative Instrument] as Turnix olivii.
 
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Turnix olivii
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Turnix olivii [59293]
Family Turnicidae:Gruiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Robinson,1900
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Other names Turnix olivei [924]
Turnex olivei [66635]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Turnix olivii.

Common name: Buff-breasted Button-quail.

Other names: Buff-backed Quail, Buff-breasted Quail, Olive's Quail (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is a conventionally accepted species (Christidis & Boles 1994; Condon 1975; Sibley & Monroe 1990). It has sometimes been treated as a subspecies of the Chestnut-backed Button-quail Turnix castanota (Marchant & Higgins 1993). However, a comparison of the morphology of the Buff-breasted and Chestnut-backed Button-quail found that there was sufficient variation between the two birds to warrant their recognition as separate species (Macdonald 1971).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is a large, plump and pale-eyed button-quail. Fully-grown males measure about 18 cm in length, and are slightly smaller than fully-grown females, which measure 19 to 22 cm in length (Marchant & Higgins 1993). The adults have rufous-brown upperparts; a white chin and throat; a pale olive-buff breast; an off-white belly; off-white tail coverts and flanks; a brown bill, with bluish-white cutting edge and lower mandible; yellow irides; and yellow legs and feet (Macdonald 1971; Marchant & Higgins 1993). They have white streaks and black bars on the back and shoulders, and white spots on the wings. The wings, when extended in flight, are grey-black above (on the outer and trailing edges), and light grey below (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The sexes differ in the plumage of the head. The heads of males are off-white with black freckling, a grey crown and hind-neck, and a prominent black stripe (mottled chestnut-brown) on either side. The heads of females are grey (sometimes with some white speckling) with a dark grey forehead, a grey crown and hind-neck, and a prominent chestnut stripe on either side. The plumages of juvenile and immature birds have not been described (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail occurs singly, and more often in pairs. It has occasionally been recorded in small groups, and it is claimed that such groups may consist of up to 20 birds (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.; Palliser 1985; Rogers 1995; Squire 1990; White 1922e).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail occurs in north-eastern Queensland. It is one of the least known birds in Australia, and has only been recorded in the Iron Range and near Coen, Cooktown, Musgrave, Mount Molloy, Mareeba, Chillagoe and Ingham (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Nielsen 1996; Rogers 1995; Squire 1990; White 1922b, e). There have not been any recent records from near Coen or Cooktown (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The extent of occurrence is estimated, with low reliability, to be 2000 km² (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The extent of occurrence is suspected to be decreasing but, because the current and historical distribution of the species is so poorly known, there is no firm evidence to support this suspicion. It is possible that the extent of occurrence may have remained unchanged, although there have not been any recent records from near Coen or Cooktown, and progressively fewer birds have been recorded each wet season near Mount Molloy during the past 10 to 15 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The area of occupancy is estimated, with low reliability, to be 50 km². The area of occupancy is suspected to be decreasing again, but because the current and historical distribution of the species is so poorly known, there is no firm evidence to support this suspicion (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There are no captive populations of the Buff-breasted Button-quail. No population re-introductions have been attempted or proposed.

The paucity of records makes it impossible to determine if the distribution is severely fragmented.

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is endemic to Australia (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

There has been a considerable effort to locate populations of the Buff-breasted Button-quail (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Searches were conducted at many known and potential locations including sites in the Iron Range, around Coen, Mount Molloy and Mareeba, and from Atherton to Georgetown, as part of a broad-scale survey funded by Birds Queensland to determine the status of the species. Only three pairs were recorded during these searches, and all three pairs were located in close proximity to Mount Molloy (Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.).

The population is estimated to consist of 500 breeding birds. However, this estimate is of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000) and is largely speculative due to a lack of records.

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is believed to occur in a single, contiguous population (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The population size of the Buff-breasted Button-quail is suspected to be decreasing. There is no firm evidence to support this suspicion. However, there have not been any recent records from near Coen or Cooktown, and progressively fewer birds have been recorded each wet season near Mount Molloy during the past 10 to 15 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.).

The paucity of records makes it impossible to determine if there are any natural fluctuations in population size, extent of occurrence or area of occupancy.

The generation length is estimated, with low reliability, to be three years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There are no records of cross-breeding between the Buff-breasted Button-quail and any other species.

The Buff-breasted Button-quail has been recorded in Iron Range National Park, Rifle Creek Reserve, Davies Creek National Park and Broadwater State Forest Park (Atlas of Australian Birds 2007; Nielsen 1996, 2007).


The Buff-breasted Button-quail occurs in patches of short and sparse grassland, on a terrain of small stones (often on the lower slopes of hills and ridges), and sometimes in open glades amongst Melaleuca, Acacia, Alphitonia or Tristania, in rainforest or open Eucalyptus woodland (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.; Rogers 1995; Squire 1990; White 1922b). It has also been recorded on burnt patches of habitat (Rogers 1995). It is possible that fires that occur early in the wet season might help to maintain a suitable open habitat structure for the breeding season (Garnett & Crowley 2000), although observations suggest that the rapid and dense regrowth of grasses in burnt areas following the onset of the wet season quickly renders such habitats unsuitable for the Buff-breasted Button-quail (Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail has not been recorded in any of the threatened ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act 1999. It is not known to associate with any other threatened species or subspecies that is listed under the EPBC Act 1999.

No specific information is available on the ages of sexual maturity, life expectancy or natural mortality. However, other species of Turnix can reach reach sexual maturity at three to four months of age (Frith 1976b; Shephard 1989), although most birds do not begin to breed until one year old (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The breeding biology of the Buff-breasted Button-quail is poorly known. It has been recorded breeding in January and March. It builds a dome-shaped nest with a side entrance. The nest is made of grass, and lined with grass (and sometimes a few leaves), and is placed in a hollowed-out depression at the base of grass tussock (Squire 1990; White 1922b, e).

Clutches consist of two to four eggs (Squire 1990; White 1922b, e). The eggs are a whitish colour with speckles, spots and blotches of reddish-brown, bluish-grey and black (White 1922b). The role of the sexes in incubation has not been determined, but a male bird was flushed from one nest that contained eggs (Squire 1990), and in other members of the family Turnicidae the eggs are usually incubated by the male only (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Smyth & Young 1996). The incubation period has not been recorded, but it is likely to be in the order of 12 to 21 days, as has been recorded for other members of the family Turnicidae (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Smyth & Young 1996).

The role of the parents in the care of the young, and the length of the fledging period, and the period of post-fledging dependence, has not been recorded. However, it is likely that the young are fed by the male, as has been recorded in other members of the family Turnicidae (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The breeding success of the Buff-breasted Button-quail has not been quantified, and no confirmed causes of nest failure have been determined. However, it has been claimed that goannas Varanus feed on the eggs (White 1922e).

The diet of the Buff-breasted Button-quail is practically unknown. The stomachs of four birds that were collected near Coen contained seeds, insect remains, and grains of coarse sand (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The foraging behaviour of the Buff-breasted Button-quail has not been recorded. However, it is likely to forage on the ground by scratching in leaf litter with its feet, and gleaning (pecking at) any food items exposed, as has been recorded in other members of the family Turnicidae (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The movements of the species are essentially unknown. It has been suggested that the Buff-breasted Button-quail might make nomadic or irruptive movements, as have been recorded in some other species of Turnix (Squire 1990). There is some evidence to suggest that the Buff-breasted Button-quail might move in response to changes in habitat quality (Rogers 1995). For example, it was recorded near Mareeba following seasons of above-average rainfall and improved plant growth (Squire 1990); and it deserted one location when the local vegetation became too dense, and then returned when the vegetation was cleared by a storm, leaving only sparse new growth (Rogers 1995).

No information is available on home ranges or territories. However, it is likely that females defend a territory from other females, as has been recorded in other species of Turnix (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Smyth & Young 1996). The territories of the closely related Black-breasted Button-quail T. melanogaster, range from about 1.5 to 6.1 ha, and it is possible that Buff-breasted Button-quail maintain territories of a similar size (Hughes & Hughes 1991; Smith et al. 1998).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species if viewed clearly by an experienced observer (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Rogers 1995). However, there is significant potential for inexperienced observers, or observers with poor views, to confuse the Buff-breasted Button-quail with the similar Painted Button-quail T. varia, which has a distribution that overlaps that of the Buff-breasted Button-quail and which occupies similar (but less dense) habitats, or with other species of button-quail or quail including the Red-backed Button-quail T. maculosa and Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Nielsen 1996, 2007; Rogers 1995).

The Buff-breasted Button-quail is a difficult species to detect and observe. This is because it is shy, wary and sparsely distributed, and because its plumage makes it difficult to see amongst the cover of its preferred habitat (Nielsen 1996, 2007; Rogers 1996).

The lack of information on the Buff-breasted Button-quail makes it impossible to determine if any threatening process is impacting on the species. It has been speculated that the Buff-breasted Button-quail may have been eliminated from much of its former range because of changes in the suitability of habitat caused by grazing and the introduction of fire regimes that encourage extensive fires but promote the invasion of habitats by woody weeds (Crowley & Garnett 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Harrington & Sanderson 1994). However, birds have been recorded in both grazed and ungrazed habitats, and known breeding sites in the Mount Molloy area, which are largely unaffected by grazing and fire, support only a very low number of birds, which suggests that other processes might be involved in the suspected decline of the species (Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.). It has been claimed that some known sites at the southern end of the distribution are at risk of being cleared for agriculture (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The lack of information on the Buff-breasted Button-quail makes it difficult to determine what conservation actions are needed. Actions completed to date include a broad-scale survey of known and potential locations, and some analysis of habitat in the Mount Molloy area (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.). The following actions were recommended in The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett & Crowley 2000):

  • Survey for breeding birds on the northern Atherton Tablelands.
  • Determine husbandry techniques using a captive population of the Chestnut-backed Button-quail T. castaneothorax, and then capture ten or more Buff-breasted Button-quail to establish a captive breeding population.
  • Study the captive population to determine optimum habitat structure.
  • Trial the use of fire in the early wet season as a means to maintain suitable breeding habitat.
  • Employ radiotelemetry to determine the habitat use and movement of birds in the wild.
  • Record the calls and utilise the recordings in broadcast surveys.
  • Determine an effective conservation management strategy.

Wildlife Conservancy of Tropical Queensland received $11 964 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2007-08. This project will assist in determining the status of the Buff-breasted Button-quail and will contribute to information required to develop a national recovery plan for the species. Activities include surveying, trapping and radio-tracking.

There have not been any major studies on the Buff-breasted Button-quail.

There are no specific recovery, conservation or threat abatement plans for the Buff-breasted Button-quail. However, a brief recovery outline for the species does appear in The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Turnix olivii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006zr) [Internet].
National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii (Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith, 2009a) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Turnix olivii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006zr) [Internet].
National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii (Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith, 2009a) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation caused by Varanus spp. National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii (Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith, 2009a) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Turnix olivii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006zr) [Internet].
National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii (Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith, 2009a) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Turnix olivii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006zr) [Internet].

Atlas of Australian Birds (2007). Unpublished data.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Condon, H.T. (1975). Checklist of the Birds of Australia. Part 1. Non-Passerines. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Crowley, G.M. & S.T. Garnett (1998). Vegetation change in the grasslands and grassy woodlands of central Cape York Peninsula. Pacific Conservation Biology. 4:132-148.

Frith, H.J. (Ed.) (1976b). Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Reader?s Digest, Sydney.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Harrington, G.N. & Sanderson, K.D. (1994). Recent contraction of wet sclerophyll forest in the wet tropics of Queensland due to invasion by rainforest. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:319-327.

Hughes, P. & B. Hughes (1991). Notes on the Black-breasted Button-quail at Widgee, Queensland. Australian Bird Watcher. 14:113-118.

Macdonald, J.D. (1971). Validity of the Buff-breasted Quail. Sunbird. 2:1-5.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2 - Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Mathieson, M.T. & G.C. Smith (2009a). National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii. [Online]. Brisbane, Queensland : DERM. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/turnix-olivii.html.

Nielsen, L. (1996). Birds of Queensland's Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Gerard Industries, Bowden.

Nielsen, L. (2007). Personal communication.

Palliser, T. (1985). The Queensland Ornithological Society Bird Report, 1984. Sunbird. 15:45-70.

Rogers, D. (1995). A mystery with history: the Buff-breasted Button-quail. Wingspan. 5:26-31.

Shephard, M. (1989). Aviculture in Australia: Keeping and Breeding Aviary Birds. Melbourne: Black Cockatoo Press.

Sibley, C.G. & B.L. Monroe (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of the Birds of the World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Smith, G.C., J. Aridis & N. Lees (1998). Radio-tracking revealed home-ranges of Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster in remnant vine scrub between Hoop Pine plantation and agriculture. Emu. 98:171-177.

Smyth, A.K. & J. Young (1996). Observations on the endangered Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster breeding in the wild. Emu. 96:202-207.

Squire, J.E. (1990). Some southern records and other observations of the Buff-breasted Button-quail Turnix olivii. Australian Bird Watcher. 13:149-152.

White, H.L. (1922b). Description of nest and eggs of Turnix olivii (Robinson). Emu. 22:99-116.

White, H.L. (1922e). A collecting trip to Cape York Peninsula. Emu. 22:99-116.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Turnix olivii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:03:42 +1000.