Although buttonquail can fly, they avoid doing so. Instead they tend to be primarily ground-dwelling birds. Buttonquail have dull plumage that blends well with the grasses and scrubs that dominate their habitat.
Female buttonquail initiate courtship. Buttonquail are unusual among birds in that they are polyandrous—a female mates with multiple males. Females also defend a territory against rival females. After mating, female buttonquail lay numerous eggs in a nest in the ground. From that point on the male takes over. He incubates the eggs which hatch after 12 to 13 days and then cares for the young.
Buttonquail have three toes on each foot and no hind toe. Since they lack a hind toe, buttonquail have also been called hemipodes, which means half-foot.
Buttonquail are sometimes classified with cranes, coots and rails but have recently been reclassified in their own group. There are two subgroups of buttonquail. The genus Ortyxelos includes just one species, the quail plover. The genus Turnix includes 14 species (sometimes more depending on the classification scheme). Members of the genus Turnix include species such as the buff-breasted buttonquail, small buttonquail, chestnut-backed buttonquail and the yellow-legged buttonquail.