Colinus Virginianus – Northern Bobwhite

Colinus Virginianus - Northern Bobwhite found in the US

Known as the Northern bobwhite, Colinus virginianus is a ground-nesting bird native to Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, with imported populations in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. It is a New World quail in the family of Odontophoridae. They were previously grouped with Old World quails in the Phasianidae family, but are unrelated.

Quick Overview: Colinus Virginianus – Northern Bobwhite
Body size: Around 8.5-10.5 in (22-27 cm) and a weight of 179 g (6.3 oz)
Main colors: White, Black, Yellow, Brown
Range: Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Northern Bobwhite Description

Bobwhites have rounded wings and a square tail. Bobwhites display sexual dimorphism in their beak, wing coverts, and facial colors. Males have white facial stripes and necks, while females and juveniles are buff-colored with a brown body. Male wing coverts have contrasting black feather patterns, whereas female wing coverts are colorless. Male mandible base black while female mandible base is yellow. This bird’s back and breast are mottled with white borders, black bars, and vermiculations.

Colinus Virginianus - Northern Bobwhite found in the US
Beautifully captured Colinus Virginianus – Northern Bobwhite. Photo by: Andy Morffew


These birds have a length of 8.5-10.5 in (22-27 cm) and a weight of 179 g (6.3 oz). Their wings could range from 13 in (33 cm).


Early spring leafy greens are a rich nutrient source. From spring through fall, insects make up to a quarter of the diet. Females eat more insects than males to satisfy their egg-laying protein needs. Throughout the summer, fruits are a great source of carbohydrates. The bobwhite’s diet in the fall and winter is largely seeds and legumes. Hatchlings are fully insect-dependent.


They definitely favor early successional vegetation caused by disturbances like fire, farming, and wood harvesting. They inhabit early and late-successional vegetation in rangelands. Diverse invertebrate, seed, and herbaceous plant ecosystems are required. Covering from predators, the weather, and nesting material is required. Water is not a major factor in defining bobwhite habitat since dew collects enough water.


After an unsuccessful mating couple, parents and young form coveys. Coveys are fluid, and by fall, family clusters have split due to random entry and exit. One for food-finding, eleven for avoiding opponents, six sexual and agonistic calls, and two parental cells. Their society is governed by men.

Colinus Virginianus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Galliformes
  • Family: Odontophoridae
  • Genus: Colinus
  • Species: Colinus virginianus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Northern Bobwhite in the USA

From northeastern Ontario to Central America, northern bobwhites can be found. The eastern United States and Mexico have the highest population densities. Bobwhites are also found in Cuba. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and northern Mexico all have disjunct populations.

The Northern Bobwhite can be found in the following states in the United States – Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia

Colinus Virginianus – Northern Bobwhite

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