Wood quail

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Wood quail
Odontophorus leucolaemus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Odontophoridae
Subfamily: Odontophorinae
Genus: Odontophorus
Vieillot, 1816
Type species
Tetrao gujanensis (marbled wood quail)

See species list

The wood quails are birds in the genus Odontophorus of the New World quail family, which are residents in forests in the Americas.[1] The core range of the genus is centered in the lowlands and foothills of the northern Andes of Colombia and the mountain ranges of Central America; however, some species occur elsewhere in tropical and subtropical South America.

These are shy species, 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 up to 12 birds. Nevertheless, when protected, they can become surprisingly tame, as has been shown at Paz de las Aves near Mindo, Ecuador, with the dark-backed wood quail.

Wood quail are 22–30 cm long, dumpy, short-tailed, stout-billed partridge-like birds with a bushy crest. The upper parts are dark brown, and the under parts are black, grey, brown, or rufous. Some species have a striking black and white throat or facial markings. The sexes are similar, but in some species, the female has a duller-coloured crest, and in others the under parts are more rufous or grey than in the male. 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 their nests 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 normally make good their escape on foot, but if startled, 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 considered threatened.


The genus Odontophorus was introduced in 1816 by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot to accommodate a single species, the marbled wood quail, which is therefore the type species.[2][3] The genus name Odontophorus is from Ancient Greek meaning "bearing teeth", from odous "tooth" and pherō "to carry".[4] The genus now contains 15 species.[5]


Image Common name Name Distribution
Marbled wood quail Odontophorus gujanensis Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela
Spot-winged wood quail Odontophorus capueira Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and formerly in Uruguay
Black-eared wood quail Odontophorus melanotis Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama
Rufous-fronted wood quail Odontophorus erythrops Colombia and Ecuador
Black-fronted wood quail Odontophorus atrifrons Colombia and Venezuela
Chestnut wood quail Odontophorus hyperythrus Colombia.
Dark-backed wood quail Odontophorus melanonotus Colombia and Ecuador
Rufous-breasted wood quail Odontophorus speciosus Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru
Tacarcuna wood quail Odontophorus dialeucos Colombia and Panama.
Gorgeted wood quail Odontophorus strophium Colombia
Venezuelan wood quail Odontophorus columbianus Venezuela
Black-breasted wood quail Odontophorus leucolaemus Costa Rica and Panama
Stripe-faced wood quail Odontophorus balliviani southern Peru and Bolivia
Starred wood quail Odontophorus stellatus Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru
Spotted wood quail Odontophorus guttatus Central America from southern Mexico to western Panama


  1. ^ Johnsgard, "The American Wood Quails Odontophorus" World Pheasant Association Journal 4 (1979), pp. 93–99.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Analyse d'une Nouvelle Ornithologie Élémentaire (in French). Paris: Deterville/self. p. 51.
  3. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1934). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 51.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 280. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2022). "Megapodes, guans, guineafowl, New World quail". IOC World Bird List Version 12.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 5 July 2022.