Unravelling the mysteries of the Buff-breasted Button-quail Turnix olivii: a possible booming call revealed

No alleged recorded calls of Buff-breasted Button-quail Turnix olivii have been directly linked to observations of an individual vocalising. Recorded calls have proven as elusive as a photograph of a live bird. The best descriptions of calls date back to the 1920s. Using spectrograms, we analysed the call structure of ‘booming’ calls recorded on automated recording units from the vicinity of Buff-breasted Button-quail sightings at Mt Mulligan, north-Queensland. These ‘mystery calls’ differed from spectrograms of other booming advertisement calls recorded elsewhere of other button-quail species with which the Buff-breasted Button-quail shares its habitat. The ‘mystery calls’ also differed from those of the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides, Papuan Frogmouth P. papuensis, and Common Bronze-wing Pigeon Phaps chalcoptera. The structure of the booming, advertisement calls recorded at Mt Mulligan was consistent with earlier descriptions by McLennan (1923) and White (1922) of booming calls of Buff-breasted Button-quail near Coen, north-Queensland. McLennan could imitate the call and successfully attract individuals of the species. We used playback of the ‘mystery call’ recorded on the automated recorders at Mt Mulligan to similarly entice a Buff-breasted Button-quail female, accompanied by a male, toward our playback location in February 2016, further suggesting that the ‘mystery call’ could be a recording of the focal species.

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