Marbled Wood-Quail Odontophorus gujanensis

  • Order: Galliformes
  • Family: Odontophoridae
  • Polytypic: 8 subspecies
  • Authors: Clark Frederick Johnson


In Costa Rica this species breeds from January to August (Skutch 1947, Stiles and Skutch 1989). Birds in breeding condition were collected in Colombia from March-May; a nest was found in March; and chicks reported in April (Blake 1955, Hilty and Brown 1986). Chicks reported from southern Venezuela in April (Dickerman and Phelps 1982) and from Suriname in May (Haverschmidt 1968).

Most information on nesting is from Skutch (1947), based on observations in Costa Rica.

Nest: Tend to be built in depressions in the ground, situated on slopes, at the base of a mound, or in the space between protruding roots. Nests are completely covered with dead leaves, supported by intermixed small sticks. From the outside the structure appears to be a low mound of large dead leaves and course sticks with a mix of small green grass pulled up by the roots (Skutch 1947). Small fragments of dead leaves, bits of sticks, and other vegetation cover the bottom of the nest mound. Birds tend to also build up foliage in front of the "doorway" to further conceal themselves when inside (Skutch 1947). Nests are extremely difficult to distinguish from surrounding leave litter and are easily overlooked. Skutch (1947) measured nests at approximately 25.5 cm from front of chamber to the back, 13 cm from side to side, 13 cm from floor to ceiling, and the doorway having a diameter of about 10 cm. When completed, the nesting birds' eyes sit almost level with the surface in front of the doorway (Skutch 1947).

Eggs: Tend to be very oval shaped with one end being sharply pointed. They are a dull white that frequently become stained by the dead organic matter lining the nest (Skutch 1947). Of two sample sizes of 4 eggs each during his study, Skutch (1947) found the following measurements: 38.9 by 27.8, 38.5 by 27.8, 40.5 by 27.4, and 38.5 by 27.4 mm in his first sample; and 38.9 by 27.8, 38.1 by 28.6, 38.1 by 27.8, and 37.3 by 27.8 mm in his second sample.

Clutch Size: Skutch (1947) observed an average of 4 eggs per nest throughout his study.

Incubation: Skutch (1947) observed that females sit continuously except for one long recess each morning. He observed absences ranging from 1.5 to 3 hours. The male would call to the female, and as she left she would pick up dead leaves and throw them back over her body, so that they fell upon the roof of the nest and in front of the doorway. Female Marbled Wood-Quails keep their eggs covered for 75-86 percent of the 12 hours of daylight. Total incubation time fell to between 24 and 28 days (Skutch 1947).

Parental care: Males participate in brood care after chicks have hatched, often staying behind if a chick breaks loose from its mother: "if a chick lags behind or is cut off from the flock, usually a single adult will stay and try to lead it to safety, while the rest quickly walk out of sight with the other youngsters" (Skutch 1947).

Recommended Citation

Johnson, C. F. (2011). Marbled Wood-Quail (Odontophorus gujanensis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.