Quails are small, adorable birds that belong to two families; Phasianidae and Odontophoridae. There are actually over 40 species of quail divided between these two families distributed across much of Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Oceania. As ground-dwelling birds, quails can be shy, so what is a group of quails called?
The most common collective nouns for a group of quails are a flock, bevy and covey of quails. Whilst flock is a common name for groups of birds, bevy and covey are quite distinctive. Covey is an Old English term for a group of small gamebirds, including quails and partridges. Bevy is also an old term for groups of birds, particularly quails.
Quails in the family Odontophoridae, which includes the Northern bobwhite, are only distantly related to quails in the family Phasianidae, even though they look pretty much identical!
Like many ground-dwelling birds, quails tend to be quite shy, but there are some exceptions. Even though they spend much of their time on the ground, quails are usually strongly migratory - they are the only truly migratory gamebirds.
Read on to learn more about these cute and compact birds!
Flock of California quails on a roof
There are two interesting ones here; a wagering and revenge of quails. A wagering of Gambel’s quails is likely named as such because Gambel is phonetically the same as gamble.
Montezuma quails are found in Mexico and are named after the Aztec emperors by the same name. Montezuma’s Revenge was a 1984 platform game for Atari consoles, and is also the Mexican equivalent of “Delhi belly” - the kind of bloating, gas and diarrhoea contracted when eating food that one’s stomach is not accustomed to!
Close up of a Montezuma Quail
Most quail species are pretty solitary and spend most of their time alone or with their mate, but there are a few examples of gregarious quails.
For example, Common quails are primarily solitary, only coming together infrequently to feed. Old World or ‘true quails’ from the Phasianidae family are almost solely monogamous, and most form strong life-long pair bonds. Once mated, quails tend to do most things as a pair.
Common Quails are primarily solitary
There are some highly social species of quail. The California quail is one such sociable quail that gathers in small groups of some 10 to 30 birds. California quails forage together and even bathe communally - they love dust baths and may take several a day.
King quails are also quite gregarious, forming small groups of several birds. In the breeding season, Bobwhite quails can gather in large flocks numbering into the hundreds - they are one of a small number of quails that are polygamous and polyandrous.
Another common quail, the Japanese quail, spends much of the year with their mate and forms social flocks of around 20 or so birds. Some species of quails also form family flocks, such as the Gambel’s quail. These mixed family broods may contain the parents and young from multiple families.
Jungle quails are yet another example of sociable quails who spend much of the day in groups of 10 to 25 birds. As we can see, quails are certainly not always solitary, despite often being characterised as so.
Three Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) drinking
Quails flock together for two reasons; to feed and to breed. In the breeding season, some species of unmated quails come together to find mates. However, most quails are monogamous, and after they pair up, they tend to retreat from life in the flock.
Quails are not overly sociable birds, but some species flock together to feed. For example, Gambel’s quails become quite social in the summer and spring, coming together in larger groups to feed in the morning and dusk.
Jungle quails are another sociable species, that form coveys of 8 to 25 birds. They maintain pathways through the undergrowth, foraging together at dusk and dawn. At dusk, groups of Jungle quails disband and go off in their separate directions before regrouping the next day. It seems that many species of quails are socially flexible and can spend time both alone or in small groups.
A flock of California Quail feeding together
Japanese, Jungle and Gambel's quails flock together in groups of some 10 to 30 birds. Bobwhites can flock together in larger groups of around 100 birds at certain times of the year.
Ordinarily, quail flocks are relatively small. For much of the breeding season and summer, pairs of mated quails like to spend time away from the flock, both before and after breeding and nesting.
Most species of quails are monogamous, mating for life. Quail pairs form strong bonds and do most things together. Female quails can lay large clutches of up to 16 eggs in some families, which means that quail families are pretty large!
The female typically broods the chicks, but the male helps feed them. Quail chicks don’t fledge for some 40 to 50 days but may stay close to their parents for the whole year until they reach sexual maturity.
Quails do sometimes form larger family groups. The Japanese, Jungle and King quails can form small flocks of parents and chicks from different families. Some New World quails from the family Odontophoridae also merge broods, meaning that different mothers will brood each other’s chicks.
A family of Jungle Bush Quail (Perdicula asiatica)
Most quails are solitary birds. For example, the Common quail is usually solitary throughout the entire year, sticking to their mated pairs. However, most species of quails are capable of joining small flocks to feed - they don’t like to be totally removed from each other’s company.
It’s worth mentioning that this doesn’t mean that single quails should be kept as pets. Whilst quails aren’t always sociable, they prefer to be coupled up with another bird at least. Pet quails will likely be happier as part of a small flock and get lonely when kept by themselves.
There’s no specific name for a pair of quail. Most ‘true quails’ from the Phasianidae family are perennially monogamous, meaning they mate for life.
Some New World quail from the family Odontophoridae are polygamous or polyandrous.
Quail that mate for life tens to form strong pair bonds. Pairs of quails do practically everything together, foraging together during the day and retreating the same roost each night to sleep. The female does take care of most brooding duties, but both parents usually help raise the chicks.
A pair of California Quail (Male left and female right)
There’s no specific name for a group of baby quails. Quails can have as many as 15 or 16 chicks, which is well above average.
Once hatched, baby quails are tiny and stick closely to the mother for as long as 50 days. Some species of quails form flocks of mixed families. There may be occasions where broods merge into one, or where baby quails are raised by other mothers.
Many species of quails are actually excellent flyers, even if they don’t look like it. Quail wings are surprisingly long and powerful, so whilst some species prefer not to fly, they’re far from flightless.
Common quails breed across much of Europe and Central Asia, flying down to Africa, the Middle East and India each winter. In fact, quails are one of the only truly migratory gamebirds.
When quails migrate, they usually form small groups of around 10 to 30 birds and generally fly in these small groups.
A group of California Quail in flight
Groups of around 30 quails can get along without too many issues, but it does depend on how experienced the keeper is and the species and character of the birds.
Whilst many species of quails flock together at points throughout the year, they do also need their personal space, especially in the breeding season.
The Bobwhite quail is probably the most popular species to keep in the USA, and the Common quail in the UK and much of Europe. The King quail is also kept as a pet.
Quails do need to be raised together as a flock if possible. Introducing newcomers into established flocks can be a risky business - the flock might attack the new member. It’s generally recommended to keep fewer males than females, around one male for every three females.
Those inexperienced in keeping quails should start with a much smaller quantity of around five or six quails.
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