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Merlin Bird ID

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    Northern Bobwhite

    ID Info
    Silhouette Game BirdsGame Birds

    Northern Bobwhite

    Colinus virginianus
    • ORDER: Galliformes
    • FAMILY: Odontophoridae
    Basic Description

    An emphatic, whistled bob-white ringing from a grassy field or piney woods has long been a characteristic sound of summers in the Eastern countryside. It’s quite a bit harder to spot a Northern Bobwhite, as the bird’s elegantly dappled plumage offers excellent camouflage. They forage in groups, scurrying between cover or bursting into flight if alarmed. Bobwhites have been in sharp decline throughout the past half-century, likely owing to habitat loss and changes in agriculture, and they are an increasingly high priority for conservation.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Northern BobwhiteRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Despite their sharp population decline, it’s still possible to find Northern Bobwhite in fields, rangelands, and open forests over much of their range. Their call is one of the easiest to learn of all bird sounds. The two sharp, whistled notes really do sound like “bob-white!”—and the call carries a long distance, so if bobwhite are around you will probably know it long before you see them. Look for these unobtrusive birds pecking and scratching on the ground near to or underneath vegetation—or, more likely, bursting upward into a short flight of flurrying wings if you get too close.

    Other Names
    • Codorniz Cotuí (Spanish)
    • Colin de Virginie (French)

    Backyard Tips

    In places where bobwhites are common, they may eat bird seed from ground feeders in open backyards with shrub cover.

    • Cool Facts