Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite
(Colinus virginianus)

Order:  Galliformes
Family:  Odontophoridae

Northern Bobwhite Information

Length:  8 - 11"

Habitat:  Farmlands, brushy open areas, open woodlands, overgrown fields, meadows, roadsides. Prefers habitat that includes open woods,fields (or other open areas), and some brush for cover.

Diet:  Seeds (favors legume seeds), buds, leaves, new plant growth, wild fruits, acorns, waste grains; insects such as ants, beetles, and grasshoppers.

  Calls of the Northern Bobwhite

Additional Information

Northern Bobwhite
Habitat, diet, feeding behavior, nesting, migration, and conservation status of this bird. Includes range map, photos, and calls. (From Audubon Field Guide)

Male and Female Northern Bobwhite

Male and Female Northern Bobwhite

Courtesy of Steve Maslowski/USFWS

Northern Bobwhite
Identification Tips

  • Small, chunky, short-tailed, round-winged, ground-dwelling bird
  • Slight crest at top of head
Adult male
  • White chin and supercilium
  • Black cap, eyeline, nape and throat
  • Reddish-brown body stippled with white and black spots
Adult female
  • Buff throat and supercilium
  • Dark cap, eyeline, nape and throat
  • Reddish-brown body with darker back
  • Black and white streaks and chevrons about underparts and back
  • Pale belly

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Northern Bobwhite Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Range in New England

The Northern Bobwhite is a permanent resident in most of its range. In New England, this bird's current range is uncertain. Its population has been in serious decline in recent years, so older maps may not be accurate.

Previous USGS Breeding Bird Survey Maps showed the presence of the Northern Bobwhite in Massachusetts (more abundantly in the eastern part of the state) and in Connecticut. The current map (above) indicates that no breeding birds were recorded in this area during the most recent survey period.

On Cornell's "All About Birds" site, the range map does include southern New England (MA, CT, RI), including a small portion of southern New Hampshire.

However, the text of Cornell's "Birds of North America" species account indicates that the northern limit of this bird's range is now southeastern Massachusetts where it is very rare and local.

Year-round Map from eBird

Year-round sightings of the Northern Bobwhite over the past 5 years (2014-2019)

Christmas Bird Count Map
Historical CBC Map from USGS