Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa)

Himalayan Quail

Himalayan Quail

[order] GALLIFORMES | [family] Phasianidae | [latin] Ophrysia superciliosa | [authority] Gray, 1846 | [UK] Himalayan Quail | [FR] | [DE] | [ES] | [NL] Himalaya Kwartel | [copyright picture] Birdlife


Genus Species subspecies Region Range


A single species from north-western India; possibly extinct.

Physical charateristics

Rather nondescript quail with red bill and legs. Male greyish overall, with black face and throat and white forehead and narrow supercilium. Female has dark-marked brown upperparts, buffish head-sides and underparts and contrasting dark mask and dark streaks on breast to vent

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Oriental Region: Ophrysia superciliosa is known only from the western Himalayas in Uttaranchal, north-west India, where about a dozen specimens were collected near Mussooree and Naini Tal prior to 1877


It was recorded in long grass and scrub on steep hillsides, particularly south-facing slope crests, between 1,650 m and 2,400 m.


It was only recorded around Mussoorie and Naini Tal hill stations during the winter months, suggesting it may breed at higher altitudes. No information is available on breeding habits. There are two undated juvenile
specimens that were possibly taken around November.

Feeding habits

Generally encountered in coveys of 6-12 birds, it was extremely elusive, never flying except when almost stepped on. Its food appears to have comprised mainly grass seeds and probably also insects, especially when young, and berries. Areas of potentially suitable habitat around Suwakholi contain berry-bearing shrubs such as Principea utilis, Lonicera angustifolia, Berberis asiatica and Gerardiana heterophylla, all of which are speculated to have provided food for the species.


This species has not been recorded with certainty since 1876, despite a number of searches, and it may have been severely impacted by hunting and habitat degradation. However, it probably remains extant, because thorough surveys are still required, and the species may be difficult to detect (favouring dense grass and being reluctant to fly). In addition there is a recent set of possible sightings around Naini Tal in 2003. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered
The species was last seen 60 years before independence, indicating hunting levels during the colonial period contributed significantly to its decline. Widespread land-use changes thereafter, particularly open cast mining for limestone and related disturbance, are other likely contributory factors to its decline. Its contact call was apparently heard frequently in November and appears to have aided hunters to locate them. It is also hypothesised that habitat changes at lower elevations during the post-pleistocene glaciation might have pushed subpopulations to suboptimal higher elevations, causing local extinctions
Himalayan Quail status Critically Endangered


It is unclear whether it is sedentary or a short-distance migrant.

Distribution map

Himalayan Quail distribution range map

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