Masked Bobwhite - Illustration by Bill Singleton

Masked Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus ridgewayi


The adult male masked bobwhite has a deep cinnamon colored breast and a black head and throat. Some may have a white stripe traveling from the eye down to the neck and other varying patches of white on the head and throat. The males have crown feathers that darken with age. The rest of the plumage is an array of black, brown, cinnamon, white, and buff feathers in a pattern similar to other bobwhite species.1 The female bobwhite has plumage that is mottled brown, black, and white, with a pale cinnamon colored throat.

The masked bobwhite inhabits savannah grasslands where grass and shrubs provide sufficient ground cover.

Historically, the masked bobwhite ranged from the grassy plains of southern Arizona to Sonora, Mexico. Currently, reintroduced populations of bobwhite reside in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and two ranches in Sonora.2

The masked bobwhite incorporates many indigenous plants in its diet.1 During fall, winter, and early spring, the seeds of the whiteball Acacia (Acacia angustissima) seem to make up much of the bird's diet. Berries and small fruits are also incorporated when available. Insects are eaten for protein during the breeding season.1

The masked bobwhite begins nesting with the start of the monsoon season. Bobwhites form monogamous pairs, with both partners helping to protect the nest and raise the young. The nest is formed in a shallow depression on the ground, well camouflaged in its surroundings. The female will lay ten to twenty eggs, from which about eleven chicks will hatch.1 The family stays together until late spring.

The masked bobwhite is listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It is also protected by the Lacey Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an approved recovery plan with a goal of introducing self-maintained populations in Arizona and Sonora, and eventually delisting the species.

Masked bobwhites in Pima County:
The masked bobwhite was first discovered in Pima County, Arizona in the 1860s. With destructive cattle grazing and several years of drought, the bird virtually disappeared from the state by the early 1900s.3 In Arizona, the Buenos Aires NWR is the only verifiable site for the masked bobwhite. With careful management and the reestablishment of native grasslands, the masked bobwhite can make a comeback.



1. "Taxonomy: Bobwhite, Masked." August 25, 1999. Web site

2. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. March 1995. Masked Bobwhite Recovery Plan.

3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Threatened and Endangered Species. Arizona Ecological Service Field Office, Phoenix, AZ. pp 93-94.


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