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Taxonomy of the Buttonquail

"In the major order of the Cranes there is no group that has confounded the researchers regarding taxonomy as much as the Buttonquail (Order Turnicidae). It seems as if these are pushing for promotion towards another order or even towards a separate order of their own. Regarding size, appearance and behaviour theymostly resemble the quail, which belongs to the order of the Galliformes (poultry)".

Before 1990 science had a huge problem classifying the buttonquail, as Erich Thenius explains in 1969 in Grzimek's "The Life of Animals", Volume VIII, Birds, Part 2". He detects Crane- as well as Poultry characteristics (note that the common quail belongs to the order of the poultry, family of pheasants).

Poultry-like Properties

Regarding size, look and motion the buttonquails resemble mostly quails, which belong to the order containing the poultry. They also distinguish themselves from the order of the Cranes with additional quail-like properties:

  • Nostrils that are covered with small feathers,
  • Very quick development of hatchlings (capable of flight after 10 to 19 days and fertile (in captivity) after 4 to 5 months.
  • The patterns on the down garment resembles mostly that of poultry.
  • The early shedding of the inner small flight feathers from the juvenile plumage.
  • Very early moulting of juveniles.
  • The digging behaviour..

Crane-like Properties

The buttonquail also shows properties that are more befitting to members of the order of the cranes:

  • The absence of a crop.
  • The single deep incisions at both sides of the back of the sternum.
  • The double spotted eggs (although hoatzin eggs have a similar design)
  • The way the parents offer food to the offspring.

Thet they do not have a crop is rather surprising, as these birds feed themselves, amongst others, with all kinds of seeds.

Specific Properties

Some properties are common with neither poultry or cranes:

  • The short breeding period (12 to 13 days).
  • The fact that the male breeds and takes care of the offspring.

Erich Thenius concludes: "Considering all these properties the buttonquails are a sister order of all cranes, waders and gulls, making them a separate order, or they take a specific separate position within the order of the cranes next to all other groups of cranes, rails and bustards.

Current Taxonomy

Although the buttonquail were, as indicated above, traditionally assigned to the gruiformes or galliformes (respectively the crane- or poultry-orders), they did obtain in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy a proper class in the eighties: the turniciformes. New molecular-genetic research done in the nineties assigns them to the order of the charadriiformes (the waders).




Ondersoorten in de orde Turnicidae

Geslacht Ortyxelos

  • O. meiffrenii (Leeuwerik-kwartel)

Geslacht Turnix

  • T. castanotus (Rosse vechtkwartel)
  • T. everetti (Soemba-vechtkwartel)
  • T. hottentottus (Hottentot-vechtkwartel)
  • T. maculosus (Roodrug-vechtkwartel)
  • T. melanogaster (Zwartborst-vechtkwartel)
  • T. nanus (Natal-vechtkwartel)
  • T. nigricollis (Madagaskar-vechtkwartel)
  • T. ocellatus (Gevlekte vechtkwartel)
  • T. olivii (Cape York-vechtkwartel)
  • T. pyrrhothorax (Roodborst-vechtkwartel)
  • T. suscitator (Zwartkeel-vechtkwartel)
  • T. sylvaticus (Gestreepte vechtkwartel)
  • T. tanki (Chinese vechtkwartel)
  • T. varius (Bonte vechtkwartel)
  • T. velox (Kleine vechtkwartel)
  • T. worcesteri (Worcesters vechtkwartel)