Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite
Adult male
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Galloanserae
Order: Galliformes
Family: Odontophoridae
Genus: Colinus
Species: C. virginianus
Binomial name
Colinus virginianus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

About 2 dozen

The Northern Bobwhite, Virginia Quail or (in its home range) Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) is a ground-dwelling bird native to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It is a member of the group of species known as New World quails (Odontophoridae). They were initially placed with the Old World quails in the pheasant family (Phasianidae), but are not particularly closely related. The name "bobwhite" derives from its characteristic whistling call. Despite its secretive nature, the northern bobwhite is one of the most familiar quail in eastern North America because it is frequently the only quail in its range. There are 22 subspecies of northern bobwhite, and many of the birds are hunted extensively as game birds. One subspecies, the Masked Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgewayi), is listed as endangered with wild populations located in Sonora, Mexico and a reintroduced population in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Arizona.



Bill: Short, curved, brown-black.
Size: 10 inches long with 15-inch wingspan, round body.
Colors: Brown, buff, rufous, white, black, gray.
Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a white throat and brow stripe bordered by black. The overall rufous plumage has gray mottling on the wings and a gray tail, and the flanks show white scalloped stripes. Whitish underparts have black scallops. Females are similar but are duller overall and have a buff throat and brow without the black border. Both genders have pale legs and feet.



There are twenty-one recognized subspecies, from 3 groups. 1 subspecies is extinct:

  • Eastern Group
  • Grayson's Group
    • C. v. graysoni (Lawrence, 1867) - Grayson's Bobwhite - west central Mexico
    • C. v. nigripectus (Nelson, 1897) - Puebla Bobwhite - eastern Mexico
  • Black-breasted Group
    • C. v. godman (Nelson, 1897) - Godman's Bobwhite - eastern slopes and mountains of central Veracruz
    • C. v. minor (Nelson, 1901) - Least Bobwhite - northeast Chiapas and Tabasco
    • C. v. pectoralis (Gould, 1843) - Black-breasted Bobwhite - eastern slopes and mountains of central Veracruz
    • C. v. thayeri (Bangs and Peters, 1928) - Thayer's Bobwhite - northeast Oaxaca
  • Masked Group
    • C. v. atriceps (Ogilvie-Grant, 1893) - Black-headed Bobwhite - interior of western Oaxaca
    • C. v. coyolcos (Statius Müller, 1776) - Coyolcos Bobwhite - Pacific Coast of Oaxaca and Chiapas
    • C. v. harrisoni (Orr and Webster, 1968) - southwest Oaxaca
    • C. v. insignis (Nelson, 1897) - Guatemalan Bobwhite - Guatemala and southern Chiapas
    • C. v. ridgwayi (Brewster, 1885) - Masked Bobwhite - north central Sonora
    • C. v. salvini (Nelson, 1897) - Salvin's Bobwhite - coastal and southern Chiapas


The Northern Bobwhite's diet consists of arthropod prey as well as lush vegetation.


Northern bobwhites can be found year-round in agricultural fields, grassland, open woodland areas, roadsides and wood edges.. Their range covers the southeastern quadrant of the United States from the Great Lakes and southern Minnesota east to Pennsylvania and southern Massachusetts, and extending west to southern Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and all but westernmost Texas. These birds are absent from the southern tip of Florida and the highest elevations of the Appalachian Mountains, but are found in eastern Mexico and in Cuba. Isolated populations of these game birds have been introduced in Oregon and Washington. The Bobwhite has also been introduced to New Zealand.


The clear whistle "bob-WHITE" or "bob-bob-WHITE" call of these birds is most recognizable. The syllables are slow and widely spaced, rising in pitch a full octave from beginning to end. Other calls include lisps, peeps and more rapidly whistled warning calls.


Like most game birds, the northern bobwhite is shy and elusive. When threatened, it will crouch and freeze, relying on camouflage to stay undetected, but will flush into low flight if closely disturbed. These birds are generally solitary or found in pairs early in the year, but family groups are common in the late summer and winter roosts may have two dozen or more birds in a single covey.


Colinus virginianus
Plate 76 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Virginian Partridge.

These are generally monogamous birds, though some evidence of polygamy has been noted. Both parents will incubate a brood for 23–24 days, and the precocial young leave the nest shortly after hatching. Both parents will lead the young birds to food and care for them for 14–16 days until their first flight. These birds can raise 1-2 broods of 12-16 eggs per brood annually.

Attracting Northern Bobwhites

Game birds are not typical backyard birds, but in the appropriate habitat these birds will visit ground feeders for seeds or cracked corn. They will also visit ground-level bird baths. Birders who want to encourage northern bobwhites to visit should avoid insecticide sprays and choose low shrubs for landscaping to help the birds feel secure.

Similar Species

The Ruffed Grouse is larger with a fan-like tail.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Colinus virginianus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is near threatened

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • northern bobwhite — virgininė putpelė statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Colinus virginianus angl. northern bobwhite vok. Virginiawachtel, f rus. виргинская американская куропатка, f pranc. colin de Virginie, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas –… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • northern bobwhite — noun a favorite game bird of eastern and central United States • Syn: ↑Colinus virginianus • Hypernyms: ↑bobwhite, ↑bobwhite quail, ↑partridge …   Useful english dictionary

  • northern bobwhite. — See under bobwhite. * * * …   Universalium

  • northern bobwhite. — See under bobwhite …   Useful english dictionary

  • Bobwhite Quail — Taxobox name = Northern Bobwhite image width = 200px image caption = Adult male status = NT status system = iucn3.1 regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves subclassis = Neornithes infraclassis = Neognathae superordo = Galloanserae ordo …   Wikipedia

  • bobwhite quail — noun a popular North American game bird; named for its call • Syn: ↑bobwhite, ↑partridge • Hypernyms: ↑quail • Hyponyms: ↑northern bobwhite, ↑Colinus virginianus …   Useful english dictionary

  • bobwhite — /ˈbɒbwaɪt/ (say bobwuyt) noun any quail of the genus Colinus of North and Central America, such as the northern bobwhite, C. virginianus, bred as a game bird. Also, bobwhite quail. {imitative of the bird s call} …   Australian English dictionary

  • bobwhite — noun a popular North American game bird; named for its call • Syn: ↑bobwhite quail, ↑partridge • Hypernyms: ↑quail • Hyponyms: ↑northern bobwhite, ↑Colinus virginianus …   Useful english dictionary

  • bobwhite — /bob hwuyt , wuyt /, n. any of several American quail of the genus Colinus, esp. C. virginianus (northern bobwhite), having mottled reddish brown, black, and white plumage. See illus. under quail. [1805 15, Amer.; from its cry, as heard by… …   Universalium

  • Northern Pintail — Male and female (left right)   …   Wikipedia

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