The Plains Wanderer, Pedionomus torquatus, is a unique bird and is put in a family of its own. It is endemic to Australia.
This is a quail-like ground bird, measuring 15"?19 cm. The adult male is light brown above, with fawn-white underparts with black crescents. The adult female has a distinctive white-spotted black collar. They are poor flyers, preferring to run when startled. Females lay four eggs, which the male then incubates.
It was formerly believed to be related to the buttonquails and thus placed in the gamebird order Galliformes or with the cranes and rails in Gruiformes. DNA-DNA hybridization and RAG-1 sequence data places it as a wader related to the jacanas (Sibley & Ahlquist 1990, Paton et al. 2003, Thomas et al. 2004, van Tuinen et al. 2004). It thus represents a remarkable case of morphological convergence.
Population decline has been caused by the conversion of native grasslands to cultivation.
This bird is listed as an endangered species on the 2007 IUCN Red List.
Plains Wanderers are listed as vulnerable on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). Their conservation status also varies from state to state within Australia. For example:
- The Plains Wanderer is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988). Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.
- The Plains Wanderer is listed as endangered on Schedule 1 of the 'Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995).
The Plains Wanderer is likely to change status to nationally endangered under the EPBC Act 1999.