18 July 2015

Harlequin Quail – Jizan area

Whilst birding the area just north of Jizan on 30 June 2015 I came across eight Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei. This is a species that has not been recorded in Saudi Arabia for many years although I thought I saw one in 2013 in a nearby area. I flushed a male bird and got very good flight views as it flew a long distance across a field. The bright underparts plumage and face pattern could be clearly seen leaving no doubt this time about the birds identification. I them flushed seven more birds, one further male and six female types, but despite spending more than two hours walking the area and flushing birds I never managed to photograph one or see one on the ground for more than a few seconds. The race that occurs in southwest Saudi Arabia is C. t. arabica, that is slightly paler than other races but is possibly not a valid subspecies. Male has very distinctive combination of black-and-white head pattern, black breast and chestnut flanks with the female being similar to Common Quail. They favours open grassland with scattered bush cover and cultivated areas and have been recorded in all months in southwest Saudi Arabia where they are assumed to be a resident. This would be an interesting species to try to trap at a later date to confirm the breeding status and racial identification of the Saudi Arabian birds. I thank Kadambari Devaraian for kindly allowing me permission to use the photographs below of a male Harlequin Quail.