It’s been a good week for Painted Button-quail.
A cryptic species, at home in the box-ironbark, populations fluctuate along with the seasons. This year I suspect we’ll see an ‘uptick’ in numbers as conditions are ideal for a successful and extended breeding effort.
This week I’ve located birds in different parts of the Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve. On both occasions they emerged from the undergrowth as a tightly knit pair, a sign they are on their breeding ground. Earlier during winter, I flushed individual Painted Button-quail in the Mia Mia, and once a covey of three that rocketed off in typical style from beneath my feet. Tell-tale ‘platelets’, saucer-shaped depressions created by their foraging activities, have been found more regularly than usual.
When breeding the species is easiest to locate from its distinctive and far-carrying ‘oom’ calls, uttered slowly at first and then gradually quickening. Sexually dimorphic, the female is significantly larger and more richly coloured than the male – a large rufous shoulder patch the most immediately noticeable difference.
Painted Button-quail are a declining woodland bird. Over the past couple of decades there have been years when I didn’t record a single observation. Hopefully that might be about to change.