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Northern Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus

Length: 9 to 10 inches Wingspan: 14 to 16 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Contrasting white throat and eyebrow,  rufous body overall, very short tail

Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianusThe Northern Bobwhite is named after its familiar bob-white call.  They are the only quail native to the eastern United States.  Managed as a game bird in many states, Northern Bobwhites are at the very northern end of their range in South Dakota, and populations are susceptible to harsh winters.  Note the female Bobwhite photos at the bottom of the page are female "Masked Bobwhites", a subspecies of Bobwhite found in the southwestern United States.

Habitat: Can be found in a variety of semi-open habitats, including farmland, roadside ditches, woodland edges, and brushy meadows.

Diet: A wide variety of items, including with seeds and insects making up the majority of the diet.  Will also feed on berries, acorns, leaves, buds, roots, and snails.

Behavior: Nearly always forages on the ground, although they will occasionally move into low shrubs and vegetation.  Primarily found in coveys except during breeding season, when lone birds or family groups may be found.

Nesting: June and July

Song: Northern Bobwhite song

Migration: Permanent resident throughout its entire range.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Northern Bobwhite sightings

Similar Species: Generally distinctive compared to species normally found in South Dakota.

Feeders: Will occasionally attend for various seeds scattered on the ground.

Conservation Status: A general decline has been noted in recent decades, probably due to habitat loss and changes in agricultural field management.  Populations at the northern end of its range are routinely decimated by harsh winters, including those found in South Dakota.  The Masked Bobwhite, mentioned above, is rare in its U.S. range.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Bobwhite

2) BirdWeb - Northern Bobwhite

3) Audubon Guide - Northern Bobwhite

Photo Information: October 13th, 2008 - Beaver Creek Nature Area near Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Northern Bobwhite photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Northern Bobwhite - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident in the extreme southeastern part of the state.  Northern range of the species is primarily dictated by the harshness of preceding winters.

Additional Northern Bobwhite Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos 
Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus