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Northern Bobwhite Colinus virginianus


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Northern Bobwhite, male
credit: BS Thurner Hof/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Odontophoridae, New World Quail view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has white throat and stripe above eye; dark elements of head pattern vary from black to rufous, according to region; lower margin of white throat is defined by black "necklace." Body plumage is brown overall, but with pale barring on underparts and streaking on flanks. "Masked Bobwhite" (ssp. ridgwayi) has mainly rufous orange body plumage and largely black face and throat; its southwestern U.S. range is outside the scope of this book. ADULT FEMALE Rufous brown overall, palest below, with streaked flanks and marbled upperparts. Shows hint of male's head pattern, but pale elements of this are buff-yellow. JUVENILE Similar to adult female, but duller.

Dimensions Length: 8-11" (20-28 cm)

Endangered Status The Masked Bobwhite, a southwestern subspecies of the Northern Bobwhite, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Arizona. The Masked Bobwhite was eliminated from Arizona around the turn of the 20th century when its natural grassland habitat was devastated by the establishment of large cattle ranches in the area. Small numbers of these elusive quail survive in Mexico, and efforts are being made to restore and protect their habitat there. Masked Bobwhite habitat has been reestablished in Arizona's Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reintroduced the bobwhite there.

Habitat In decline, but still locally common.

Observation Tips Wary where hunted.

Range Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Texas, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Western Canada, Plains, Rocky Mountains, New England, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest

Voice Male utters a strident bob-white call.

Discussion North America's most familiar quail. Male's white throat and stripe above the eye are distinctive; plumage otherwise shows regional variation in extent of rufous. Diet includes seeds, fruits, bulbs, and invertebrates. Gregarious outside breeding season when it forms coveys. Sexes are dissimilar.