Bird O'clock

Discovering the Wonders of Bar-Backed Partridge: Behaviors Plumages and Conservation

Bird watching is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity that many nature enthusiasts participate in. Among the many species of birds that one can observe is the Bar-backed Partridge, known by its scientific name Arborophila brunneopectus.

In this article, we will discuss the identification and plumages of this fascinating bird species.


The Bar-backed Partridge can be identified by its unique physical characteristics. It has a brownish-grey head, neck, and upper parts with a rusty brown back and wings.

Its breast and belly are black, while the flanks and undertail are chestnut-brown. The bird also has a red bill and legs.



In the field, the Bar-backed Partridge can be identified by its rust-colored belly and its black breast. Another distinguishing feature is the red bill, which makes it stand out from other bird species.

It also has a short tail and a round body shape, making it easy to spot.

Similar Species

The Bar-backed Partridge has some similarities with other bird species, such as the Red-legged Partridge and the Chukar Partridge. However, the Red-legged Partridge has a reddish-brown belly, while the Chukar Partridge has a black band on its head and a paler belly.


The Bar-backed Partridge has two distinct plumages, which are the breeding and non-breeding plumages.

Breeding Plumage

During the breeding season, the Bar-backed Partridge has a brighter plumage. Males have a brighter reddish-brown breast, while females have a duller breast.

Both sexes have a more vivid rusty-brown back and wings.


Breeding Plumage

During the non-breeding season, the Bar-backed Partridge’s plumage becomes duller and less vivid. Males’ breasts become paler, while females’ breasts are lighter.

Both sexes have less of the rusty-brown color on their back and wings.


The Bar-backed Partridge undergoes two molts each year, which are the pre-basic and pre-alternate molts.

Pre-Basic Molt

The pre-basic molt occurs after the breeding season and involves the replacement of feathers. During this molt, the Bar-backed Partridge sheds its old and worn-out feathers and grows new ones.

This process helps the bird to maintain its feathers and keep them clean.

Pre-Alternate Molt

The pre-alternate molt occurs before the breeding season and also involves the replacement of feathers. During this molt, the Bar-backed Partridge sheds its old feathers and grows new ones that are brighter and more colorful.

This process helps the bird to look its best during the breeding season and attracts potential mates.


The Bar-backed Partridge is a fascinating bird species with unique physical characteristics and two distinct plumages. Its reddish-brown breast, black belly, and red bill make it easily recognizable and distinguishable from other bird species.

Its molting processes also help maintain the health and appearance of its feathers. As you observe this remarkable bird, keep in mind these key identification and plumage characteristics, and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Systematics History

The history of the Bar-backed Partridge’s taxonomic classification is a subject of debate. Previously, it was placed under the family Phasianidae, which includes pheasants and quails.

However, modern phylogenetic studies have resulted in its placement in the family Odontophoridae, which contains New World quails.

Geographic Variation

The Bar-backed Partridge is found throughout the eastern Himalayas, from Nepal to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In its range, both geographic and altitudinal variations occur.


There are nine recognized subspecies of the Bar-backed Partridge, based on variations in size, coloration, and distribution.

Arborophila brunneopectus delacouri is found in Laos and northern Vietnam.

Arborophila brunneopectus blanci is distributed in north-central Vietnam. Arborophila brunneopectus robinsoni is found in central and southern Thailand.

Arborophila brunneopectus brunneopectus occupies northern Thailand, Southeastern Myanmar, and northernmost Cambodia.

Arborophila brunneopectus intermedia is found in northeastern Myanmar and south-central China.

Arborophila brunneopectus rufogularis occurs in eastern Nepal and northeastern India.

Arborophila brunneopectus pryeri occupies southern Vietnam and northeastern Cambodia.

Arborophila brunneopectus tonkinensis is found in northern Vietnam.

Arborophila brunneopectus robinsoni occurs in Thailand.

Related Species

The Bar-backed Partridge is related to other species of Arborophila, such as the Grey-breasted Partridge, the Rufous-throated Partridge, and the Chestnut-breasted Partridge.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Bar-backed Partridge’s distribution has changed over time due to various factors such as habitat loss and hunting. The species used to be found in Bangladesh and northern India’s foothills, but it has disappeared from these areas.

In northeastern India, the population has declined significantly due to deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and hunting. Also, the bird is rare in Nepal due to hunting and habitat loss.

In Thailand and Vietnam, the Bar-backed Partridge’s distribution has also declined due to habitat loss, forest degradation, and hunting for food. Humans have cleared large areas of forest for agriculture, logging, and other purposes, reducing the bird’s habitat.

Additionally, hunting for food and sport has impacted the populations in Thailand and Vietnam.

The Bar-backed Partridge is considered Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss, hunting, and other threats.

Conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the species’ survival, including protecting its habitat, regulating hunting, and creating protected areas where the bird can live and breed.


The Bar-backed Partridge is a fascinating bird species that has undergone changes in its taxonomic classification and distribution over time. Its nine recognized subspecies exhibit distinct characteristics that separate them from one another.

However, the bird faces significant threats due to habitat loss, hunting, and other human activities. Conservation efforts are necessary to mitigate these threats and preserve this remarkable bird species for future generations to enjoy.


The Bar-backed Partridge is a terrestrial bird species that lives in a variety of forest habitats, ranging from subtropical to tropical zones. It prefers dense forest undergrowth with grasses, ferns, and shrubs, near streams, and other sources of water.

Additionally, it can be found in bamboo thickets, open woodlands, and secondary forests. The bird’s preferred habitat is characterized by a moderate to dense understory, which provides critical cover for the bird’s flightless young and a medicinal herb supply.

The species is widely distributed throughout the eastern Himalayas, with populations occurring in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. However, the bird’s population density varies depending on the region and the extent of forest habitat available.

Movements and Migration

The Bar-backed Partridge is non-migratory and remains in the same habitat throughout the year. However, during the breeding season, individuals may move to higher elevations to nest and breed.

This movement is typical of many bird species and is necessary to find suitable nesting sites and resources for raising young.

Additionally, the bird may undergo vertical movements within its habitat throughout the day, following the rainfall cycle.

During the morning, the bird is more likely to be found at lower elevations underneath dense vegetation, looking for food. In the late morning and afternoon, the bird is more likely to move up to higher elevations in search of cool temperatures during the heat of the day.

The Bar-backed Partridge is known to be sedentary within its range, and there is no record of long-distance movements, even in the case of habitat loss. However, as with many bird species, habitat fragmentation can create barriers to migration and dispersal for the Bar-backed Partridge, hindering gene flow and limiting population connectivity.

Conservation efforts for the conservation of this bird species should focus on preserving its habitat and connectivity. Moreover, habitat restoration and reforestation efforts can help create corridors to enable the dispersal of species like the Bar-backed Partridge, keeping its populations healthy and protecting genetic diversity.


The Bar-backed Partridge is a forest-dwelling bird species that prefers undergrowth, bamboo thickets, open woodlands, and secondary forests. While it is non-migratory, during the breeding season, individuals may move to higher elevations to find suitable nesting sites.

The bird is more likely to undergo vertical movements within its habitat throughout the day, depending on the availability of suitable temperatures and food sources. However, habitat fragmentation and loss can create barriers to movement and gene flow for this bird species, emphasizing the importance of habitat preservation, restoration, and creation initiatives for its survival.

Diet and Foraging


The Bar-backed Partridge is an omnivore bird with a mixed diet that comprises seeds, fruits, insects, and small invertebrates, particularly snails and earthworms. They forage on the forest floor, using their strong, curved beaks, and scratching the leaf litter, using a backward and forward motion.

The species’ feet are adapted to aid their foraging habits, being strong, thick, and with long toes and sharp nails allowing them to dig in the earth and scratch for food.


The Bar-backed Partridge feeds primarily on seeds, complementing its diet with small quantities of fruit, invertebrates and insects. The bird’s diet varies depending on its geographic range.

In Cambodia, the bird feeds on seeds of Dipterocarpaceae and Myrtaceae. In Sumatra, it feeds on fruit crops, bamboo shoots, and snails.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Bar-backed Partridge is a bird species that can adjust its metabolic rate according to environmental demands. The bird’s metabolism may increase during colder conditions, facilitating thermogenesis and maintaining optimal body temperature.

During warm temperatures, the bird’s metabolic rate decreases, conserving energy, and allowing it to maintain constant body temperature.

The Bar-backed Partridge uses several mechanisms to regulate its body temperature apart from metabolism.

The bird dissipates heat by excreting water droplets through its respiratory tract. This mechanism is useful during hot days when perspiration is not enough to cool the bird’s body.

The bird also uses passive thermoregulation by seeking shade or humid environments during hot days.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

The vocalization of the Bar-backed Partridge is used for communication between individuals. Males produce a loud and bold whistle, which is often used to attract females during the breeding season.

The sound is a nasal whistle, with a duration of three to five seconds, and a frequency of 1.2 to 1.9 kHz. The bird produces this sound by expelling air from its respiratory system through a vibrating syrinx, a muscular structure located at the base of the trachea.

Females also vocalize, but their sounds are generally quieter than the males.

The females’ sounds differ from those of males, being less whistling and more scratchy, conveying information about territories and threat signals. Both males and females communicate using a variety of calls but are most active vocally during the breeding season.


The Bar-backed Partridge is an omnivore bird species that feeds primarily on seeds with small quantities of fruit and invertebrates. It has metabolic and thermoregulation mechanisms that enable it to adjust to environmental demands and maintain optimal body temperature.

The bird’s vocalization serves as a mode of communication between individuals, with males using their loud whistles primarily to attract females during the breeding season. Overall, understanding the Bar-backed Partridge’s feeding, metabolic and vocalization behaviors is critical for conservation efforts and facilitates management of the bird’s populations for the future.



The Bar-backed Partridge is a ground-dwelling bird species adapted to life in the understory of dense forest environments. The bird’s locomotion is primarily bipedal, and it uses its legs and feet to move while keeping its body weight centered over its feet.

Additionally, the bird can use its wings to balance itself while moving quickly through brushy areas.


Bar-backed Partridges are fastidious about self-maintenance, often spending a large portion of their day preening, cleaning their feathers, and dust bathing. The bird preening is important to maintain the integrity of feathers and ensure that they maintain their insulating and protective properties.

They may also dust bathe, rolling in a depression in the forest floor, allowing the dust to penetrate between its feathers and reach its skin, which helps keep feathers supple and improves their waterproofing ability.

Agonistic Behavior

The Bar-backed Partridge is a non-territorial bird species, with individuals choosing to share space in suitable habitat for feeding, mating, and shelter. However, the bird may display agonistic behavior towards conspecifics, with males engaging in aggressive displays to establish hierarchy during the breeding season.

These displays take the form of fluffed feathers, raised tail, and chest-bumping individuals.

Sexual Behavior

Bar-backed Partridges are socially monogamous birds, with individuals forming life-long pair bonds. The breeding season for this bird species coincides with the monsoon season from May to September, and their breeding behavior is shaped by the availability of resources in relation to environmental conditions.

During the breeding season, males engage in courtship behavior to attract females. The males call out with a loud whistle, followed by a series of shorter whistles, and move their head up and down while pacing back and forth to display their size.

Females may also signal their readiness to mate by squatting low to the ground and rapidly flapping their wings.


The Bar-backed Partridge nests on the ground in a shallow depression with no other significant structures or materials. Females lay clutches of two to six eggs that hatch after 23 to 33 days, with the young leaving the nest soon thereafter.

The female alone incubates the eggs and is responsible for caring for the young, teaching them how to forage, mate, and other behaviors necessary for survival.

Demography and Populations

The Bar-backed Partridge population has declined due to habitat loss, hunting, and fragmentation in several areas throughout its range. Forest clearing and land-use changes have drastically reduced habitat availability, leaving the species vulnerable to human activities.

While populations are not quantified in all of the bird’s range, in India, the population alone is estimated to have declined by 80-90% over the last three generations. Development projects, timber harvesting, and agriculture are among the main drivers of habitat loss.

Bar-backed Partridge shows that this bird requires conservation efforts to maintain important populations. Protecting habitat fragments, addressing the demand for illegal harvesting and trade, promoting reforestation, and habitat connectivity should be part of the conservation package in securing this bird’s future.


The Bar-backed Partridge is a ground-dwelling bird species that displays behavior important for its survival. The bird’s bipedal locomotion enables it to move quickly in the understory of dense forest environments.

Additionally, it engages in self-maintenance habits vital to maintaining the integrity of feathers and insulating properties. Furthermore, the bird exhibits social and sexual behavior, manifesting as communal living and courtship behavior during the breeding season.

The breeding period of this species coincides with the monsoon season of May to September, and their habitat and environmental conditions play a crucial role in their breeding behavior. However, the Bar-backed Partridge’s populations have declined due to habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, and illegal trade demand.

Thus, conservation efforts to protect the bird’s habitat, demand reduction, and advocacy for better policies around wildlife and forest management should be priorities to save the bird species from extinction. The Bar-backed Partridge is a fascinating bird species with unique behaviors, characteristics, and remarkable survival mechanisms, of which understanding is vital to its conservation.

This bird species thrives in dense forest environments and displays impressive self-maintenance, sexual behavior, and locomotion skills. Their populations have, however, declined due to habitat fragmentation, hunting, and illegal trade demand, emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts.

To secure the bird’s future, conservation policies and practices should focus on habitat protection, demand reduction, and advocacy for wildlife and forest management. Overall, promoting the survival of Bar-backed Partridge populations, is a conservation priority that supports the planet’s biodiversity and the future of humanity.

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