09/09/2021
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Chestnut-backed Buttonquail confirmed in Queensland for first time

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Chestnut-backed Buttonquail has been confirmed from the Australian state of Queensland for the first time, following a century-old suspicion that the species occurred there.

Previously known only from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, analysis of satellite imagery by ecologists Patrick Webster and Henry Stoetzel showed that suitable habitat extended into Queensland.

Webster and Stoetzel, who were conducting research into three buttonquail species, carried out fieldwork at Westmoreland Station, an isolated cattle station on the Queensland-Northern Territory border, where the observed a minimum of eight Chestnut-backed Buttonquail. The researchers believe that a lack of public access to the area may be why the species has gone unnoticed for so long.

Prior to the Westmoreland Station discovery, the nearest Chestnut-backed Buttonquail were known from Borroloola in the Northern Territory, more than 200 km away.

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Mr Webster told ABC News that it represented a significant eastward range extension for the resident species.

He explained: "A lot of Australia's birds are nomadic because of our very climatic conditions they have to travel big distances.

"But our research has shown that these birds don't do these big movements so it's most likely they're a resident species in Queensland, it's just that no one has been out to this site to look for them, so they've gone undetected."

While conducting his research, Mr Webster found evidence that the species might have been seen previously in Queensland after all. More than a century ago, ornithological collector William McLennan made a possible sighting in 1910, although he did not collect a specimen and his notes went overlooked for 111 years, until Webster and Stoetzel's recent sightings.