Common Buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be scarce to locally abundant (del Hoyo et al. 1996). National population sizes have been estimated at < c.100 breeding pairs in China and < c.100 breeding pairs in Taiwan (Brazil 2009). The European population is estimated to be possibly extinct, as there have been no confirmed sightings in more than 30 years (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


The species is found in scrub jungle in Asia, bushy savanna and grass-covered plains in sub-Saharan Africa (sometimes in recently burnt areas and usually in drier habitats than T. hottentottus where their ranges overlap), thickets, tussocky or rank grassland, crops, stubble and weedy fallow fields, sometimes near water but always on warm dry soils and shuns wetlands themselves (Debus and Kirwan 2016). In the western Palearctic the species was formerly found in coastal scrub of bushes and dwarf palms (palmetto) Chaemerops humilis (Arecaceae), but now probably confined to suboptimal Mediterranean coastal sand scrub community including Halimium halimifolium (Cistaceae), Pistacia lentiscus (Anacardiaceae) and Quercus suber (Fagaceae) (Madge and McGowan 2002), as well as broom Calicotome villosa (Fabaceae) scrub and adjacent cultivated areas (Gutiérrez Exposito et al. 2011, Debus and Kirwan 2016). It breeds April to August in thr western Palearctic and in all months in Africa (Debus and Kirwan 2016). The nest is a shallow, well-concealed scrape lined with grass, under grass tussock or low vegetation; standing grass stems often pulled over to form a loose canopy (Debus and Kirwan 2016). It usually lays four eggs (Madge and McGowan 2002). It feeds on seeds and invertebrates in about equal proportions (Madge and McGowan 2002). Its movements are poorly understood but it is apparently sedentary in the western Palearctic and appears to be resident or an intra-tropical migrant in Africa (Debus and Kirwan 2016).


Over the past half century much of the habitat in the sandy areas of its European range has been lost to irrigated agriculture or forestry. The species is extinct in Sicily, probably owing to hunting and conversion of garrigue habitat (Violani and Massa 1993, Debus and Kirwan 2016). An unknown number are mistakenly shot each year by quail hunters. In some areas it may have been affected by overabundance of opportunistic predators such as foxes and wild boar (Madroño et al. 2004).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
In 2002 the hunting of Coturnix coturnix in much of the theoretical range of this species within in the province of Huelva, Spain was prohibited. This measure immediately aroused concern with the hunters who had hitherto been working on surveys for the species (Madroño et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The strengthening of surveys in Andalucía and the creation of a specialized, dedicated and detailed map of the species's distribution would help inform conservation decisions, as well as the continuation of research into the ecology and ethology of the species. Training forest rangers and volunteers in methods of detecting and tracking the species. Awareness-raising campaigns within the quail hunting community in the provinces of Huelva and Cadiz. Adapting forestry work in the species's range. The goal should be to reduce forests of pine or eucalyptus and create and qualitatively enhance large areas of scrubland where forest cover is uniform. Draft Recovery Plan for the species in Andalucía (Madroño et al. 2004).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Turnix sylvaticus. Downloaded from on 22/01/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/01/2021.