Turnix dussumieri

Little Button-Quail

Turnix dussumieri.

Dabki, Hindustani.

This funny little midget, about the size of a sparrow, bears the same relation in size to the other hemipodes that the jack snipe does to the other snipe, and curiously enough is distinguished in two other similar ways, in having a pointed tail and brighter-coloured plumage; there is but little black in the upper plumage, and a good deal of straw-colour and bright chestnut, and the under-surface is pale and clear. The buff breast is plain in the centre, but along the sides of it are some round markings of black. The legs are usually white, but sometimes blue-grey like the bill. The characteristic superiority in size of the hen is not so striking in this species, and she has no distinctive decoration; but the young are duller and more uniformly brown than the old birds.

The little button-quail, which, I take it, is the button-quail, from the small size, is also the commonest of our species where it occurs, and it has a wide range over the Empire; but it is not found at higher elevations than 6,000 feet, nor in Ceylon or the extreme south of India. To the drier portions of the country it appears only to come in the monsoon. It has the characteristic habits of hemipodes to perfection, sitting particularly close in the low cover it affects, and when raised taking an even shorter flight than the other species, so that it can hardly be shot; while after this effort it sits so very tight that not only do dogs pick it up, but it has even been caught by hand.

In disposition it is about the tamest bird in existence ; in a cage it will let one pick it up like a white mouse, and seems equally at home in close captivity, so that a pair of these tiny beings would make interesting pets for any one who likes birds, but can only find room for quite a small portable cage. In England they have even been known to lay in a cage, and at this time even threatened to charge the hand of their owner ! What such tiny things could do against anything bigger than a mouse or a locust is a problem, but evidently they are not wanting in pluck. They have been found to feed on grass-seed and white ants, and are to be seen in gardens as well as in the open country. They are often found on land which has been flooded during the rains. The nest, sometimes domed and sometimes open, may be found even as late as October, in some places, though breeding begins as early as April; the eggs tend to be more numerous than in the larger species, for five and six may be found, though the usual. hemipode clutch of four is more general. They are of the pointed peg-top shape, and show the typical dark peppering and spotting of the family; but are not so much smaller than those of the larger button-quails, as would be expected—another point of resemblance to the jack-snipe. The note is described as a " plaintive moan " or " a mixture of a purr and a coo," the bird when calling raising its feathers and turning about like a courting pigeon. This tiny bird is the smallest of our game birds, but, like the tallest, the sarus crane, is rather a bird for the aviculturist than the sportsman ; if one wants to eat small birds, larks would be more worth shooting both for sport and for eating purposes. Besides the name Dabki, which means " squatter," this little bird rejoices in several others —Turret, Libbia and Chimnaj, in Hindustani; Telia dabbagundla in Telugu, and Darwi at Eatnagiri. Yet we are told that natives, unless professional bird-catchers, generally consider it simply as a young quail of sorts, and certainly it has all the appearance of a young bird which ought to grow up into something quite different.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Turnix dussumieri
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
Little Button-quail
Turnix sylvaticus dussumier
Term name: 

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