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Species Description

Northern Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus

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Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Odontophoridae


Mottled brown overall, with a white (male) or buff-colored (female) throat and eye stripe. The tail is gray. 25 cm (10 in) in length. This species has a large body and a short tail. It is found primarily on the ground.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-April, peaks in May and June, and extends into September. Found in the grass, the nest is a depression lined with fine grass. The female usually lays 12-16 eggs (range, 6-28). Both adults incubate the eggs for 23-24 days, and care for the precocial young for 6-7 days after they hatch. The young are able to capture food themselves after approximately 7 days. The family group stays together with the covey, a group of 2 or more families of Bobwhite.

Natural History

The Northern Bobwhite uses brushy habitat, such as abandoned fields. Variability in the habitat is also preferred for this species, using pine, hedgerows and shrub habitat during different parts of its life cycle. The Northern Bobwhite eat seeds, fruit, plant parts, spiders, and insects. More insects are eaten in the summer, and more seeds and other plant products are eaten in winter.


Northern Bobwhite Region Map Within the United States, the Northern Bobwhite occurs throughout most of the East, except for extreme northern states. In the Southeast, it is common. In Georgia, the Northern Bobwhite is abundant in the central part of the state all year.

Conservation Status

This species has been impacted by land use changes, including consolidation of small farms and removal of hedgerows. Severe winters also impact the populations of these birds, especially in the northern portions of their range. This species is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in the southeastern portion of its range and is managed as a game species in this region.

Similar Species

In the Southeast there are no other small quail, except domesticated or non-native species.