The Buff-breasted Button-quail is a large, plump and pale-eyed button-quail. Fully-grown males measure about 18 cm in length, and are slightly smaller than fully-grown females, which measure 19 to 22 cm in length (Marchant & Higgins 1993). The adults have rufous-brown upperparts; a white chin and throat; a pale olive-buff breast; an off-white belly; off-white tail coverts and flanks; a brown bill, with bluish-white cutting edge and lower mandible; yellow irides; and yellow legs and feet (Macdonald 1971; Marchant & Higgins 1993). They have white streaks and black bars on the back and shoulders, and white spots on the wings. The wings, when extended in flight, are grey-black above (on the outer and trailing edges), and light grey below (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
The sexes differ in the plumage of the head. The heads of males are off-white with black freckling, a grey crown and hind-neck, and a prominent black stripe (mottled chestnut-brown) on either side. The heads of females are grey (sometimes with some white speckling) with a dark grey forehead, a grey crown and hind-neck, and a prominent chestnut stripe on either side. The plumages of juvenile and immature birds have not been described (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
The Buff-breasted Button-quail occurs in patches of short and sparse grassland, on a terrain of small stones (often on the lower slopes of hills and ridges), and sometimes in open glades amongst Melaleuca, Acacia, Alphitonia or Tristania, in rainforest or open Eucalyptus woodland (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.; Rogers 1995; Squire 1990; White 1922b). It has also been recorded on burnt patches of habitat (Rogers 1995). It is possible that fires that occur early in the wet season might help to maintain a suitable open habitat structure for the breeding season (Garnett & Crowley 2000), although observations suggest that the rapid and dense regrowth of grasses in burnt areas following the onset of the wet season quickly renders such habitats unsuitable for the Buff-breasted Button-quail (Nielsen 2007, pers. comm.).
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