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Rare button-quail have vanished from Inskip Point

Female (front) and male black-breasted button-quail roost on the forest floor.
Female (front) and male black-breasted button-quail roost on the forest floor. Contributed

THE reported demise of the isolated colony of the rare black-breasted button-quail at Inskip Point illustrates how quickly a group of birds can be destroyed.

The Inskip Point colony was a regular visiting site for birdwatchers and ornithologists from many parts of the world, eager to see and study the species.

Both male and female were relatively easily seen and many a birdwatcher was able to add the species to their life list, while adding to the numbers of tourists frequenting the area.

As a group, birdwatching tourists are eagerly sought after as in general terms they spend above average amounts of money in an area and stay for longer than most other tourists, particularly if there is a good chance of a rare species sighting.

Of the seven button-quail species in Australia, five occur in this region and the black-breasted female is the largest standing about 220mm.

The female is the larger in all button-quail species.

Preferred habitat is in closed dry vine scrub areas that have been allowed to develop a good 100mm of leaf litter that is regularly turned over by brush turkeys to provide suitable conditions for small insects such as slaters, millipedes and spiders.

One of the food gathering methods used by the female black-breasted is to make 200mm wide depressions in the leaf litter that may go into the dirt below and make insects more available.

Females are territorial and during the breeding season, that seems to be rainfall and temperature dependent, they patrol the edges of their territory that can vary in size from about two to 10 hectares.

The female may mate with more than one male, and a male then incubates the eggs which may not even actually be his.

This seeming unfairness probably evens out. During the time the female patrols her territory the smaller male runs along frantically behind, so the chase may be a selection of the strongest.

Black-breasted button-quail are restricted to relatively small areas of dry vine scrub, but are much harder to see in those areas than at Inskip Point.

In a survey taken three years ago only 14 black-breasted habitat localities were identified and many of these were relatively small areas.

Topics:  inskip point quail

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