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Turnix nanus (Black-rumped buttonquail) 

Swartrugkwarteltjie [Afrikaans]; Turnix nain [French]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Turniciformes > Family: Turnicidae

Distribution and habitat

Occurs patchily from Cameroon south through southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is localised and uncommon in central Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Limpopo Province and eastern KwaZulu-Natal, with isolated populations in the Western and Eastern Cape. It generally prefers short grassland with patches of bare clay ground, especially with Teringbossie (Thesium brevibarbatum), Red grass (Themeda triandra) and other grasses. It may also move into open savanna, cultivated fields and marshy ground at the edge of irrigated sugar cane fields.

Distribution of Black-rumped buttonquail in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Thought to be a partial migrant, as it is a seasonal visitor to the Mashonaland plateau of Zimbabwe during summer rains, while elsewhere it is nomadic.


Its diet consists mainly of insects and their larvae, other invertebrates and seeds.


  • Polyandrous, territorial solitary nester.
  • The nest is built mainly by the female. consisting of a shallow scrape in the ground, thinly lined with grass and typically placed in or between grass tufts.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-March, peaking from December-March.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-14 days.


Endangered in South Africa due to overgrazing, commercial afforestation, too frequent burning, ploughing, agriculture and human settlements.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.