Most often seen as a brief flash of whirring wings as they burst from the undergrowth, the Quail is a shy and elusive game bird of grassy habitats.
The Quail is a small, compact ground bird with cryptic camouflage. Continue reading to learn more about Common Quail appearance.
Quails are plump, short-tailed game birds with short necks and well-developed legs. They have a sharp, multi-purpose bill and relatively long wings. These birds blend seamlessly with their environment and are difficult to detect among the grass and low vegetation. Their upper parts are brown with dark spots or bars and cream streaks. Their underparts are much paler, with rich orange shades and streaked flanks.
The sexes are very similar in appearance, although only the males have a white throat. Females are generally heavier and have slightly longer tails, although these differences do not help identify these elusive birds in the field.
Baby Quails leave the nest on their first day after hatching and might be seen foraging in the company of their mother. They start life as tiny fluffy chicks with downy yellow feathers and dark stripes on their heads and upper parts. Older juvenile Quails resemble adult females but have barred flanks.
Quail walking on the edge of a muddy field
The Common Quai is a small species, shorter than a Blackbird but slightly heavier.
The Common Quail has a short tail and neck, resulting in a total body length of just 16 - 18 centimetres or about 7 inches.
Quails weigh between 75 and 135 grams (2½ - 5 oz). Females are generally heavier than males.
Quails have a wingspan of 32 to 35 centimetres or about 13 inches. Their wings are surprisingly long for such a compact bird, but Quails fly well and travel long distances on migration.
Quail searching for food in grassland
Quails are far easier to hear than see, and their distinctive call is a great way to locate them in the landscape.
The song of the Quail is usually described as ‘Wet-my-lips’. The male makes this three-noted sound, and at close range, you may hear a softer ‘werr-werr’ call just before it.
Quail in natural habitat
Quails are omnivorous and opportunistic. Plant matter is the most important component of the Quail diet, but they also hunt for insects and other invertebrates, which are important protein sources for breeding females.
Their regular diet consists of the following food types:
Quail chicks are well-developed when they hatch and capable of short-distance flight after just a few days. They leave the nest on their first day and feed themselves a similar diet to their parents by watching what they eat.
Pair of Quails foraging on top of a moss covered rock
The Common Quail is the most widespread of six species in the Coturnix genus. Continue reading to learn where these small gamebirds live.
Quails occur in open habitats like rough grassland and arable land where hay, wheat, and other cereal crops are grown. They avoid scrubby, bare, wooded, marshy, or mountainous terrain and are generally found in flat or gently sloping areas.
The Common Quail has an extensive global range encompassing most of Europe and much of Central Asia in the Northern Hemisphere. They are also widespread visitors and residents in Africa from north to south.
Quails are ground birds. They spend their lives foraging among low vegetation but also undertake lengthy flights on migration.
Quails are rare birds in the UK, with an estimated 350 males heard each year. However, their numbers fluctuate, and there may be as many as 2000 males in some years.
Quail at the edge of a crop field
The Common Quail (C. coturnix) is not native to the United States or North America. However, the similar Japanese Quail (C. japonica) is a common domestic bird in North America and many other parts of the world.
Quails can turn up just about anywhere in the lowlands of England and eastern Scotland. With such low numbers and a wide range, tracking them down in the UK is a challenging task. Wiltshire and Dorset tend to offer the best chances of spotting these elusive game birds.
Quail in natural habitat
Quails that survive to adulthood have a typical lifespan of about two years. However, they can live much longer in captivity, where the threats of extreme weather, food shortages, and predation are limited. Their maximum lifespan is about eleven years.
Quails are vulnerable to many predators, including birds of prey like Hen Harriers and mammals like foxes and domestic cats. Humans are also significant predators as Quails are popular gamebirds for wing shooters and are caught in nets for food in parts of the world.
Quails are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the United Kingdom.
Common Quails are a common and widespread species with a ‘Least Concern’ classification on the IUCN Red List. They are on the UK’s Amber list due to historical declines, although their population has remained relatively stable in recent times.
Quail hiding in the undergrowth
Quails have a complex breeding range that includes much of Europe (including the UK) and Western Asia. However, there are also scattered resident breeding populations in Africa and South Asia. These birds nest on the ground among grass and other low vegetation. The female constructs a simple scrape and lines it with grass and other material.
Quails arrive in the UK in the late spring and begin nesting in early summer. Across Europe, their breeding dates vary somewhat with latitude and climate, starting as early as March and ending as late as August.
Quails lay anything from two to eighteen eggs, although eight to thirteen is most common. The eggs are yellow to white and heavily marked in brown speckles and blotches. Quail eggs measure approximately 30 millimetres long and 23 millimetres wide.
Quails do not mate for life. They have various breeding strategies, including monogamy and polygamy.
Nest of a Quail with four eggs
Wild Quails are territorial and frequently call to keep other males off their turf. Coturnix Quails can be highly aggressive toward their own kind in captivity and often injure each other by pecking.
Quails sleep on the ground among low grass and vegetation.
Quail resting in amongst the grass
Quails are known as partial migrants since some populations are sedentary while others migrate varying distances. The birds that visit the United Kingdom are migrants that overwinter in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
The Common Quail is not native to North America. However, there are six native species from the New World Quail family (Odontophoridae) in the United States, including:
Quails are native but relatively rare in the United Kingdom. They are regular summer breeding visitors, although their numbers fluctuate from year to year.
Quail foraging for food in mossy ground
Quail are popular food birds in many parts of the world and are often commercially available. Both Quail eggs and meat are popular despite being rather small.
Many people keep Quails as pets, and these birds have many benefits over other species. Quails are relatively quiet and clean, although they need a cage or aviary with plenty of floor space.
Wild Quails are shy birds that will never approach humans, although captive Quails can be tamed. Dedicated Quail keepers can develop a bond with their birds, but they are not the most affectionate pets.
The word Quail can be confusing at first glance, but it is easy to pronounce. This word sounds like KWAYL.
16cm to 18cm
32cm to 35cm
75g to 135g
An iconic bird associated with a famous Scottish whisky brand, the red grouse is instantly recognisable with its bright red eyebrow combs and its distinctive rounded shape. Heathland moors across the northern and western regions of the UK offer these iconic game birds with an ideal habitat to raise their young and forage for seeds and heather buds.
The Rock Ptarmigan is perfectly at home in the extreme climate of the northern tundra, even changing its plumage each year to blend in with the snow. There are at least 20 recognized subspecies of this widespread and common gamebird, each with varying distributions and plumage characteristics.
Commonly referred to simply as the Capercaillie, the Western Capercaillie is skittish and shy despite being the largest woodland grouse. It should not be confused with the similar Black-billed Capercaillie which resides solely in central and eastern Russia.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.