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Northern Bobwhite Colinus virginianus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species qualifies as Near Threatened because it has suffered moderately rapid declines in recent decades becoming rarer in many traditional strongholds owing to habitat conversion.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Taxonomic note
Colinus virginianus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was provisionally split into C. virginianus and C. ridgwayi by Stotz et al. (1996) but this treatment has not been adopted, following SACC (2005).

Distribution and population
Colinus virginianus is resident throughout east North America (from south Mexico and west Guatemala through the USA to extreme southern Canada) (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Brennan 1999). Populations of subspecies cubanensis on Cuba and the Isle of Pines may be natural, but many introduced populations exist across the world (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Brennan 1999, Madge and McGowan 2002). It has suffered a steady, long-term decline in most states in the USA (Brennan 1999, G. Butcher in litt. 2003), with the exception of Texas (Brennan 1999). Declines are greatest in the south-east (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Brennan 1999). Mexican populations are poorly known and some subspecies could be threatened (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Population justification
Rich et al. (2004)

Trend justification
This species has undergone a large and statistically significant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (-82.4% decline over 40 years, equating to a -35.2% decline per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).

It is found in early successional vegetation in a variety of habitats, created by disturbances from fire, agriculture and timber-harvesting (Brennan 1999). It is principally a seed feeder but insects form an important component of the diet in summer (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It forms coveys of 8-20 birds occupying a home range of approximately 10 ha.

Changes in agricultural land use (weed removal and herbicide use), forestry (high-density pine plantations), and lack of use of prescribed fire have resulted in widespread habitat fragmentation (Brennan 1999). Over 20,000,000 individuals were recently being killed annually by hunters in the USA (del Hoyo et al. 1994); poor management of populations could result in declines.

Conservation Actions Underway
Subspecies ridgwayi is on CITES Appendix I (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Restoration efforts are attempting to conserve this population in Arizona (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Conservation Actions Proposed
Frequent vegetation disturbance (every 1-5 yr) from prescribed fire and/or mechanical disturbances is essential for maintaining abundant populations in forest habitats. Maintaining tree canopy cover at <50% to create open, parkland conditions is essential. Burn 50-75% of understorey vegetation annually during late winter to early summer, in small, patchy mosaics. Research needs to be done in order to understand how to mitigate potential additive effects of hunting mortality (e.g. experiments that examine population productivity and recovery at various harvest regimes and densities). Optimal timing of prescribed fire for habitat management needs to be determined from field research and experimentation. Removal and reduction of mammalian predators during nesting may be useful if also conducted within the context of intensive habitat management. Improve understanding of the Mexican populations.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Brennan, L. A. 1999. Northern Bobwhite Colinus virginianus. In: Poole, A.; Gill, F. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 397, pp. 1-28. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia and the American Ornithologists' Union, Philadephia and Washington, DC.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Madge, S.; McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, partridges and grouse: including buttonquails, sandgrouse and allies. Christopher Helm, London.

Rich, T.D.; Beardmore, C.J.; Berlanga, H.; Blancher, P.J.; Bradstreet, M.S.W.; Butcher, G.S.; Demarest, D.W.; Dunn, E.H.; Hunter, W.C.; Inigo-Elias, E.E.; Martell, A.M.; Panjabi, A.O.; Pashley, D.N.; Rosenberg, K.V.; Rustay, C.M.; Wendt, J.S.; Will, T.C.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Harding, M., Sharpe, C J

Butcher, G., Rosenberg, K., Wells, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Colinus virginianus. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Odontophoridae (New World quails)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4,230,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species