Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Turnix varius scintillans
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Turnix varia scintillans (Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008cv) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Turnix varia scintillans.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (72) (15/12/2008) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008k) [Legislative Instrument] as Turnix varius scintillans.
 
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list) as Turnix varia scintillans
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Turnix varius scintillans [82451]
Family Turnicidae:Gruiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Gould, 1845)
Reference  
Other names Turnix varia scintillans [26047]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

The current conservation status of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos), Turnix varia scintillans, under Australian and State Government legislation is as follows:

National: Listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Western Australia: Listed as being 'rare' or 'likely to become extinct' under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

Scientific name: Turnix varia scintillans

Common name: Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos)

Other name: Abolhos Painted Button-quail

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is a conventionally accepted subspecies of the Painted Button-quail (Condon 1975; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Storr & Johnstone 1984).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) has a length of 14–17 cm and a mass of 52–82 g (Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a; Storr & Johnstone 1984). Its upperparts are mainly grey or brownish-grey, but are heavily marked with a combination of white, reddish-brown and black spots, blotches, bars and streaks, and a large reddish-brown patch on each shoulder. Its underparts consist of a white chin and throat, a grey breast with buff spots, a white, buff-white or cream belly, and a buff to reddish-buff undertail. It has reddish-orange or (when breeding) red irides, a grey or brownish-grey bill, and yellow legs and feet (Johnstone & Storr 1998; Marchant & Higgins 1993). The sexes are similar in appearance, but adult females are substantially brighter and somewhat larger than adult males (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Storr & Johnstone 1984). Juvenile birds are probably similar to adult males but still separable from adults of either sex on the basis of size and some other features (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) usually occurs in pairs (Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a). It almost certainly also occurs singly and in small groups, as recorded for other subspecies of the Painted Button-quail (Clark et al. 1973; Emison et al. 1987).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) occurs on a number of islands in the Houtman Abrolhos island group off the Western Australian coast. The subspecies has been recorded on North Island, East Wallabi Island, West Wallabi Island, Seagull Island and Pigeon Island (Barrett et al. 2003; Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr et al. 1986).

The extent of occurrence is estimated, with high reliability, to be 20 km². There is no evidence of a recent or historical change in the extent of occurrence (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, there are insufficient records of this subspecies for the trend in extent of occurrence to be determined conclusively.

The area of occupancy is estimated, with high reliability, to be 12 km². There is no evidence of a recent or historical change in the area of occupancy (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, as with the extent of occurrence, there are insufficient records for the trend in area of occupancy to be determined conclusively. The population on North Island is currently thought to be comprised of a very small number of birds and is threatened habitat modification (Blyth et al. 2006). If this threatened population were to be lost in future, the total area of occupancy would decline to less than 75% of its current value (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

The Painted Button-quail is confined to five small locations: North Island, East Wallabi Island, West Wallabi Island, Seagull Island and Pigeon Island in the Houtman Abrolhos (Storr et al. 1986).

There are no captive populations of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos). No population re-introductions have been attempted or proposed.

Given that the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is confined to five small islands in the Houtman Abrolhos (Storr et al. 1986), its distribution is considered to be naturally fragmented.

There have been two targeted surveys for the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos). The first targeted survey, conducted on North Island on 24 October 2006, produced only one definite record of the subspecies and found little evidence of foraging activity. The second survey, conducted on East Wallabi Island on 25 October 2006, produced two definite records of the subspecies and found much evidence of foraging activity (Blyth et al. 2006). The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) has also been recorded during general surveys of the Houtman Abrolhos avifauna (Alexander 1922; Gibson 1908; Hall 1902b; Serventy 1943; Storr 1960a, 1965a). The distribution of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is moderately well known from these surveys, but there are insufficient records to make an accurate determination of population size.

The population of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is estimated, with low reliability, to comprise of 2000 adult birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The size of the population had previously been estimated in the low thousands (Garnett 1993).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) occurs in four separate populations (Garnett & Crowley 2000). These populations are thought to represent genuine subpopulations given the very low probability of genetic exchange (breeding) between them, due to their isolation from each other. Subpopulations occur on each of North Island, Seagull Island and Pigeon Island, with a fourth subpopulation dispersed over West Wallabi Island and East Wallabi Island. The Wallabi Islands are virtually connected by a land bridge, thought to facilitate the movement of birds during periods of low tide (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.). Thus, birds from the two Wallabi Islands are capable of interbreeding and are thus considered one subpopulation. The largest of these four subpopulations is estimated, with low reliability, to comprise of 1000 adult birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There is no evidence of a historical decline in the population size of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos). The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) was said to be common or present in good numbers on islands in the Wallabi group (East and West Wallabi Islands) up until 1960 (Gibson 1908; Gould 1865; Serventy 1943; Storr 1965a, 1966; Whittell 1942). Likewise, it was said to be common or present in good numbers on North Island up to 1945 (Alexander 1922; Stokes 1846), although it was not recorded there in 1959 (Storr 1960a). However, the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) was again common and frequently observed on North Island in the 1970s and 1980s (Garnett 1993; Storr et al. 1986; Western Australian Museum 2002).

The population size was reported to be stable (Garnett & Crowley 2000), but the results of a recent targeted survey suggest that there may have been a substantial decline in the size of the population on North Island. This survey, conducted on North Island on 24 October 2006, obtained only one definite record of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) and found little evidence of foraging activity (Blyth et al. 2006).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is not known to undergo extreme natural fluctuations in population size, extent of occurrence or area of occupancy.

Each of the four subpopulations is considered to be important for the long-term survival and recovery of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

The generation length is estimated, with low reliability, to be three years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

No cross-breeding has been recorded between the Houtman Abrolhos subspecies and any other subspecies of the Painted Button-quail, or between the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) and any other species of bird. It is unlikely that any cross-breeding occurs in the wild because the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is the only subspecies of the Painted Quail-quail, and the only species of the genus Turnix, that occurs in the Houtman Abrolhos (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Sibley & Monroe 1990).

The entire population of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) occurs on islands in the Houtman Abrolhos (Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr et al. 1986), which is managed as an A-Class Reserve by Fisheries Western Australia (Nardi 1998). None of the islands on which the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) occurs have been managed specifically for the benefit of the subspecies, although the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia has begun to remove the introduced Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii) from North Island in an effort to restore local habitat damaged by this species (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) can occur in all available habitats in the Houtman Abrolhos (Garnett 1993), except for limestone pavements associated with old guano mining facilities (Storr 1965a). It is most common in open Spinifex longifolius grassland on low sand dunes, and in open shrubland, composed of Atriplex cinerea and Halosarcia halocnemoides, on flats (Garnett 1993; Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a). It also occurs in Frankenia pauciflora shrubland and dense thickets of Nitraria, and occasionally forages in the sub-littoral zone and around fishing camps (Storr 1965a).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) does not occur in any of the ecological communities that are listed as threatened under the EPBC Act. It is not known to associate with any other species or subspecies that is listed as threatened under the EPBC Act.

No information is available on the ages of sexual maturity or life expectancy in the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos). However, the Little Button-quail (Turnix velox) and the Black-breasted Button-quail (T. melangoaster) reach sexual maturity at about 12 weeks of age in captivity (Shephard 1989), and it is likely that the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) exhibits similar behaviour.

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) lays its eggs from April to October (Hall 1902b; Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a). Its nest is a small hollow about 2 cm deep that is excavated in loose soil beneath a shrub or clump of spinifex and lined with fine twigs (Johnstone 2002; Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a). Clutches consist of three eggs that are white or pale brown with brown, reddish-brown or dark brown spots, with some underlying grey (Johnstone & Storr 1998; Storr 1965a; Storr et al. 1986). The incubation and fledging periods are unknown but, based on the subspecies T. v. varia on mainland Australia, clutches are probably incubated for about 13 or 14 days (Carter 1923; Johnstone & Storr 1998; Marchant & Higgins 1993) and young are probably capable of leaving the nest soon after hatching (Marchant & Higgins 1993). No quantitative information is available on breeding success, but its habit of nesting on the ground renders the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) vulnerable to terrestrial predators.

The diet of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is essentially unknown. It takes scraps from around fishing camps (Storr 1965a) and, based on observations of the subspecies T. v. varia on mainland Australia, probably feeds on a combination of seeds, fruits and insects (Cleland et al. 1918; Johnstone & Storr 1998; McKeown 1944; Rose 1973).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) forages on the ground by scratching in soil and loose sand with its feet (Storr 1965a).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is resident on islands in the Houtman Abrolhos (Storr 1965a; Storr et al. 1986). A sand-bridge allows movement between East and West Wallabi Islands during low tide, but otherwise individuals are confined to their respective islands with little or no movement between them.

No information is available on the home ranges or territories of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos).

The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is unlike any other species in the Houtman Abrolhos (Marchant & Higgins 1993). The Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is difficult to detect because it usually remains within the cover of reasonably dense low vegetation where it is well camouflaged by its plumage. It can, however, be readily observed if flushed from cover and in such instances is unlikely to be mistaken for other birds if seen clearly. Furthermore, its presence in a location can also be detected by the distinctive and characteristic patches of bare earth (termed 'platelets') that are formed in the ground litter by the birds whilst foraging (Blyth et al. 2006; J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

The small population of the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) on North Island is currently thought to be threatened by habitat degradation caused by the introduced Tammar Wallaby. The population of the Tammar Wallaby on North Island has expanded rapidly since its recent introduction. Grazing and trampling by the now abundant wallaby population has eliminated much of the ground litter and dense low vegetation that would otherwise be utilised by the Painted Button-quail (Blyth et al. 2006). This threat is in the process of being addressed by the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia, which has begun to remove the wallaby population from North Island (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

The main potential threats to the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) throughout its range are thought to be fire and the future introduction of a predator or competitor to any of the islands inhabited by the subspecies (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) has persisted on North Island despite severe fires in 1935 and 1946, which may have temporarily reduced the population size, and the introduction of the House Mouse (Mus musculus), which may compete with the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) for food, and which may prey upon Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) eggs (Garnett 1993; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Storr 1960a; Storr et al. 1986). At present none of the islands that are occupied by the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) have any larger introduced predators such as rats or cats. The introduction of a large predator to any of the occupied islands could have a catastrophic effect on the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) population (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The only recovery action that has been implemented for the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) is the current effort to remove the Tammar Wallaby from, and mitigate the degradation of, suitable habitat on North Island (J. Blyth 2007, pers. comm.).

It is recommended that the islands occupied by the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) be surveyed biennially, in association with other conservation programs, to monitor the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) population and the presence or absence of predators (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There has been only one significant study on the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos) (Blyth et al. 2006).

No recovery, conservation or threat abatement plans have been prepared for the Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos). However, a brief recovery outline for the subspecies is featured in The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, competition and/or habitat degradation Mus musculus (House Mouse) Turnix varius scintillans in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006we) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Turnix varius scintillans in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006we) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation by kangaroos and wallabies Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Turnix varia scintillans (Painted Button-quail (Houtman Abrolhos)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008cv) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Turnix varius scintillans in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006we) [Internet].

Alexander, W.B. (1922). The vertebrate fauna of Houtman's Abrolhos (Abrolhos Isalnds), Western Australia. Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology). 34:457-486.

Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Blyth, J. (2007). Personal communication.

Blyth, J.D., J.A. Blyth, G. Agar & P. Agar (2006). Search for Painted Button-quail on North and East Wallabi Islands. Unpublished report to Department of Environment and Conservation, Geraldton, Western Australia.

Carter, T. (1923). Birds of the Broome Hill district. Emu. 23:125-142.

Clark, G.S., H.A. Nix & S.J. Wilson (1973). Status of birds of Canberra and district. Canberra Bird Notes. 2(7):10-21.

Cleland, J.B., J.H. Maiden, W.W Frogatt, E.W. Ferguson & C.T. Musson (1918). The food of Australian birds. Scientific Bulletin of Department of Agriculture, NSW. 15:1--112.

Condon, H.T. (1975). Checklist of the Birds of Australia. Part 1. Non-Passerines. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal, eds. (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Emison,W.B., C.M. Beardsell, F.I. Norman, R.H. Loyn & S.C. Bennett (1987). Atlas of Victorian Birds. Melbourne: Department of Conservation (Forest & Lands) & Royal Australian Ornithological Union.

Garnett, S., ed. (1993). Threatened and Extinct Birds of Australia. RAOU Report 82. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, and Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Gibson, C.G. (1908). Notes on some birds of the Abrolhos Islands, WA. Emu. 8:64-66.

Gould, J. (1865). Handbook to the Birds of Australia. London: Author.

Hall, R. (1902b). On a collection of birds from Western Australia. Ibis. 8,2:121- 206.

Johnstone, R. (2002). Personal communication.

Johnstone, R.E. & G.M. Storr (1998). Handbook of Western Australian Birds. Vol. 1: Non-passerines (Emu to Dollarbird). Perth, Western Australia: West Australian Museum.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2 - Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

McKeown, K.C. (1944). Notes on the food of Australian birds. Emu. 43:188-191.

Nardi, K. (1998). Management of the Houtman Abrolhos System - Fisheries Management Paper 117. Perth: Fisheries Western Australia.

Rose, A.B. (1973). Food of some Australian birds. Emu. 73:177-183.

Serventy, V.N. (1943). Notes on nesting birds of the Abrolhos Islands. Emu. 42:235-241.

Shephard, M. (1989). Aviculture in Australia: Keeping and Breeding Aviary Birds. Melbourne: Black Cockatoo Press.

Sibley, C.G. & B.L. Monroe (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of the Birds of the World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Stokes, J.L. (1846). Discoveries in Australia. T. & W. Boone, London.

Storr, G.M. (1960a). The physiography, vegetation and vertebrate fauna of North Island, Houtman Abrolhos. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 43:59-62.

Storr, G.M. (1965a). The physiography, vegetation and vertebrate fauna of the Wallabi group, Houtman Abrolhos. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 48:1-14.

Storr, G.M. (1966). Birds of the northern islands of the Houtman Abrolhos. Emu. 65:209-221.

Storr, G.M. & R.E. Johnstone (1984). The subspecific status of the Painted Button-quail of the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum. 11:315.

Storr, G.M., R.E. Johnstone & P. Griffin (1986). Birds of the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement. 24.

Western Australian Museum (2002). Storr-Johnstone Bird Data Bank of the Western Australian Museum.

Whittell, H.M. (1942). A review of the work of John Gilbert in Western Australia. Emu. 41:289-305.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Turnix varius scintillans in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:51:37 +1000.