Plains-wanderer

Did you know?

Although the Plains-wanderer is similar to Button-quails, it has a number of quite different features and is the only species in the bird family Pedionomidae.  It is more closely related to shorebirds such as sandpipers than it is to quail; in fact its closest relatives may be the South American seedsnipe.  Pedionomus is Greek for "haunting the fields".

Calls
The Plains-wanderer has a number of calls: a repeated, low pitched "oo"; a soft "chuck" when calling chicks when danger threatens; a gentle "irr-irr" to soothe chicks; a "pie-pie-pie" to summon chicks.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
15cm
Maximum Size: 
19cm
Average size: 
17cm
Average weight: 
65g
Breeding season: 
May to February (but New Atlas of Australian Birds has breeding records for March and April).
Clutch Size: 
4 usually
Incubation: 
23 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
20
What does it look like?
Description: 

This is a small quail-like ground bird, but with longer legs and a finer bill than a button quail. The female  is larger than the male and has a chequered black and white collar and a chestnut breast patch. The male is similar but lacks an obvious collar and has no breast patch. Overall both are speckled brown, darker above than below.  They often stand upright on tiptoe with craned necks and obvious legs. The legs are yellow to greenish yellow. Other English names are Collared Plains-wanderer and Turkey quail.

Similar species: 

Adult males and juveniles are similar to the smaller Little, Turnix velox, and Red-chested, Turnix pyrrhothorax, Button-quails. These button-quails have stout greyish bills and much shorter fleshy or pinkish legs. Unlike the Plains-wanderer they lack hindtoes.  The Plains-wanderer has a more upright stance.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

This now rare bird is endemic to southern and eastern Australia (found only there). Mostly now  in south-west Queensland, the Riverina, central and north-central Victoria, the Adelaide Plains, the Murray-Mallee country and Eyre Peninsula.

Habitat: 

The Plains-wanderer  lives on open, sparse swards and grasslands. It is not found in dense, improved grasslands or in treed areas.This bird prefers to live in the one area, unless forced to move by habitat changes.

Seasonal movements: 

This bird prefers to live in the one area, unless forced to move by habitat changes.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The Plains-wanderer eats seeds leaves, insects and spiders. It has been seen to hammer compacted soils with its beak in order to expose insects.

Breeding: 

The Plains-wanderer's nest is a hollow in the ground, scratched out by the female. The nest is lined with straw and fine grass stems. The male does most of the incubation, and all of the care of the chicks after they hatch. A female may mate with several males in one breeding season. 

Living with us

The Plains wanderer used to be common in many areas but with more intensive cultivation practices in rural areas bird numbers and their distribution have reduced markedly. It is now classed as rare.

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