Northern Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus
Northern Bobwhite specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The only native quail in much of its range, the Northern Bobwhite is most easily identified by its small size (8 ½ - 10 ½ inches), mottled brown body, small black bill, and short tail. Males have a white throat, white eye-stripe, and black cheek patch, while females have a more brownish head. The Northern Bobwhite inhabits a large part of the eastern United States and extreme southern Canada. Other populations occur in Mexico and the West Indies. This species is non-migratory in all parts of its range. Northern Bobwhites inhabit a variety of open habitats, including overgrown fields, forest clearings, grasslands, and scrub. Traditionally, forest fires helped create habitat for this species by removing thicker vegetation; today, human activity has a similar impact on habitat in certain areas. Northern Bobwhites mainly eat seeds and other plant material, but insects make up a higher proportion of this species’ diet in summer. Due to its preference for semi-open habitat types, Northern Bobwhites may be most easily observed foraging for food on the ground. When startled, this species may either run away or “explode” into the air and fly a short distance to safety. Northern Bobwhites are most active during the day.

DC Information

Common resident, nests from early May to late September. Occurs in flocks in agricultural areas, roadsides, and wood margins. The male has a white throat, the female a buffy one.

Specimen Information

In this group, the female is on the left, the male on the right and two juveniles, one in the center and another under a leaf on the left.  
Date:  12/16/1904
Collected By:  NR Wood
Locality: Washington Market 
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  192373
Date:  12/16/1904
Collected By:  NR Wood
Locality:  Washington Market 
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  192372
This is probably the collection information for the bird in the center.
Date:  7/12/1876
Collected By:  Not recorded
Locality:  Laurel, MD
Sex:  Pullet
Catalog ID:  85545
This is probably the collection information for the bird under the leaf.
Date:  8/20/1916
Collected By:  Wm Palmer
Locality:  Rosslyn, Alexandria Co, VA
Sex:  Pullet
Catalog ID:  253482

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17060 Colinus virginianus (Northern Bobwhite)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17061 Colinus virginianus (Northern Bobwhite)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17130 Colinus virginianus (Northern Bobwhite)