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Himalayan Quail

Ophrysia superciliosa
The Himalayan Quail is one of the rarest birds in the world... if they are actually still out there. Are they extinct, or are they still alive in the remote mountains of India?

The last confirmed sighting was way, way back in 1876. Since then there have only been a light spattering of unconfirmed reports, and official searches have turned up nothing definitive. So why not just say that they are extinct? It has been nearly 15 years after all. Well, the issue is that while the birds are most certainly gone from human-populated areas, there could still be a group of birds in a more remote grassland location. Quails are also very difficult to spot in general, due to their camouflaging coloration and behavior, so not seeing any does not necessarily mean that they aren't there.

All that we know about the Himalayan Quail comes from a couple of specimens taken during the 19th century, and from a scant handful of reports taken around the same time. They are small, dark birds with red bills and legs. Males also have white streaks on their heads. They live in groups of 6 to 10, residing in areas with tall grasses and feeding on the seeds that they find there. Reports also state that they rarely fly, and will only take to the air when predators are incredibly close (just about the be stepped on).

So what do you think? Is the Himalayan Quail still out there? Or has it really been gone for over a hundred years? For now it joins the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Baiji, and others in the list of "creatures that may be gone completely... but we don't know for sure."

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : India
Size : Length up to 10in (25cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Galliformes
Family : Phasianidae -- Genus : Ophrysia -- Species : O. superciliosa


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