Sumba buttonquail

A prime example of a bird that was unable to adapt to changes brought over by humans

Grahame Bowland

Sumba buttonquail


A prime example of a bird that was unable to adapt to changes brought over by humans

Population 3,500 – 15,000

A bird shrouded in secrecy and mystery that inhabits the grasslands of the Indonesian island of Sumba. Despite its enigmatic nature, this species is classified as Vulnerable, primarily due to its limited distribution and small population size, which is believed to be declining rapidly.

One of the most striking features of the Sumba Buttonquail is its exquisite plumage, adorned with a blend of black, tawny, grey, and white vermiculated patterns on its upper parts. Its rufous wing coverts add a touch of warmth to its appearance, while black-and-white scaling on the sides of the neck and a rich rufous breast further enhance its allure. With a neck and stomach adorned in pristine white and pinkish legs, this bird is a true marvel of natural beauty.

Despite its captivating appearance, the Sumba Buttonquail faces numerous threats to its survival, primarily stemming from habitat loss and degradation. The conversion of grasslands for agriculture, extensive grazing by livestock, and the practice of burning fields have all taken a toll on its preferred habitat. These activities not only diminish the availability of suitable nesting and foraging sites but also disrupt the delicate balance of the grassland ecosystem upon which the buttonquail relies.

Furthermore, hunting pressure poses an additional challenge to the Sumba Buttonquail’s survival. Although elusive and rarely seen, this species is targeted by hunters for its meat and perceived medicinal properties, further exacerbating its vulnerable status.

Efforts to conserve the Sumba Buttonquail are underway, with initiatives focused on habitat protection, restoration, and community engagement. Collaborative projects involving local communities, government agencies, and conservation organizations aim to mitigate the threats facing this species and ensure its long-term survival.

Research efforts are also underway to better understand the buttonquail’s ecology, behavior, and population dynamics. By gaining insights into its habitat requirements, breeding biology, and migratory patterns, conservationists can develop targeted strategies to address the specific needs of this enigmatic bird.


Population est.
Official estimate

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No