A new scientific paper documents findings of a rare bird in North West Queensland.
The research published in the latest edition of Australian Field Ornithology said the chestnut-backed button-quail (Turnix castanotus) was widely distributed in monsoonal tropical woodland but previously known only from the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Now paper authors Patrick Webster and Henry Stoetzel from the University of Queensland have provided the first verified record in Queensland having observed at least eight birds during October and November 2020 at Westmoreland Station in the Gulf region.
The authors said these observations represented a significant easterly range extension by over 200km and are the first confirmed records of this species for Queensland.
"Chestnut-backed button-quail had gone undetected in Queensland likely owing to the difficulty in locating and identifying button-quail generally and the low number of birdwatchers in the region," the authors said.
The researchers used satellite imagery and spatial environmental data to identify potentially suitable habitat in Queensland, described as areas "that are topographically complex and support an open woodland vegetation community on a skeletal substrate".
They found specimens of the bird at Westmoreland Station on October 24, 2020 and again November 15, 2020.
They used playback of a female bird until a female was heard replying.
The bird continued to call for 20 minutes before coming into view, when it was photographed and identified.
Several button-quail platelets and a roost were detected within 20 m of the sighting.
On the second visit, they heard two vocal responses at the same location where the first bird had been seen but the bird did not come into view.
After leaving this site, they detected a covey of seven chestnut-backed button-quail flushed 300m further to the west. The birds were seen only in flight but were immediately identifiable by their size, colouration and behaviour.
The authors said it was difficult to ascertain if their sightings represented a resident population or whether the species is a nomadic or vagrant visitor to Queensland.
They noted a 1910 spotting at Gregory Downs by William McLennan may represent a previously unreported record of this species in Queensland.
"Our evidence in combination with McLennan's reports suggests that this population is resident in Queensland," they said.
"Further investigation into the species' eastern distributional limits is warranted."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Instagram
Follow us on Google News