Dark-Backed Wood-Quail


The Wood-quails are birds in the genus Odontophorus of the New World quail family, which occur as resident breeding species in New World tropical cloud- and rainforests. The core range of the genus is centred on the lowlands and foothills of the northern Andes of Colombia and the mountain ranges of Central America; however, some species occur elsewhere in tropical South America.

These are species of dense understory thickets or bamboos, and as a consequence are amongst the most difficult Galliform birds to study or even observe. The best chance of seeing wood-quail is at dawn or dusk, when they may feed at the side of a road or on a forest track in family groups of up to 12 birds.

Wood-quails are 22-30 cm long dumpy, short-tailed, stout-billed partridge-like birds with a bushy crest. The upperparts are dark brown, and the underparts are lighter brown, grey or rufous. Some species have striking black and white throat or facial markings. The sexes are similar, but the female often has a duller-coloured crest. The advertising calls are loud and distinctive duets consisting of repeated phrases, and are often the only indication that wood-quail are present.

For most wood-quail, information has mainly come from specimens, and breeding behaviour and habits are little known. The majority of species, including the relatively widespread Spotted Wood-Quail have never had the nest described.

Those species for which the feeding habits are known forage on the ground, scratching at the soil for seeds, fallen fruit and insects. Wood-quail are typically shy and wary; they will normally make good their escape on foot, but if startled will explode into a short fast flight into dense cover.

All wood-quail species have been adversely affected by hunting and, in particular, rampant deforestation. Several species with restricted ranges are now vulnerable, and some now have populations of less than 1000 birds.

Species list


  • Hilty, Birds of Venezuela, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
  • Madge and McGowan,Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
  • Stiles and Skutch, A guide to the birds of Costa Rica ISBN 0-8014-9600-4

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