Quail Facts

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Quails are known for their plumage and distinctive calls.

Quails are plump, short-necked game birds whose natural range includes large areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They also inhabit South America and Australia to a lesser extent. Some species have been domesticated and raised on farms for their meat and eggs. Otherwise, wild quail are popular with hunters as game birds.

Quail birds spend most of their time on the ground, as their stocky bodies often make it difficult for them to fly long distances. Birders can easily identify any species by the head feathers, which are a collection of small feathers.

Quail 1

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5 fun facts :

  • Quail move surprisingly fast through the bush, reaching speeds of up to 12 miles per hour when frightened.
  • The short flights these birds make when frightened are called "flushes."
  • Adult quail birds like to dig two to three inches deep in loose soil, then wriggle around and flap their wings for a sand bath.
  • Although they vary widely in size, quails belong to the same family as pheasants.
  • Quail birds are easily identified by their vocalizations, which often sound like human words, such as "Chicago" or "Bob White," which takes its name from a species of quail in the southeastern United States.

Ready to learn more interesting facts about quail? Read "10 Unbelievable Quail Facts."

scientific name and history

Quail scientific name Coturnix coturnix , meaning quail or female title. Coturnix The coturnix refers to the Old World quail, and there are five subspecies.

The New World quail is a member of the genus Callipepla and is sometimes called the crested quail. One of the most common species of New World quail is the California quail ( Callipepla californica ), which has five subspecies. Bobwhites, also known as New World quail, are members of the genus Colinus, of which Colinus virginianus , the Virginia woodcock, often called the northern woodcock, is the most widespread.

The common ancestor of quail and chicken dates back 22.2 million years ago. Quail have been farmed domestically for over 4,000 years. They were so important as a source of protein for ancient Egyptian laborers that they valued their own hieroglyphic symbols! Additionally, quails have been in China for centuries, and the Chinese quail may be the ancestor of many modern breeds.

appearance and behavior

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Both male and female California quail have a forward-protruding plumage, although the males have larger plumage.

© iStock.com/Banu R

A quail is a small bird, usually larger than a robin but smaller than a crow, although you'll find a lot of variation between the species. Some are only four inches tall, but they can reach a height of 11 or 12 inches.

They have small heads and short, broad wings and long, square tails. In California quail, both males and females have a single forward-protruding plumage, with males having longer, larger, darker feathers consisting of several feathers. While this topknot is the hallmark of the quail, not all species have it.

The color and arrangement of the underbelly feathers result in a scaly appearance. Some species also have spots on the upper breast. Many quail have typical seed-eating beaks, meaning they are serrated, short and stocky, and slightly recurved.

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Japanese quail males have a clock gland in their throat that secretes a white foamy fluid that is commonly used to assess reproductive health.

These birds are notoriously difficult to spot as they prefer to hide in bushes. You'll often hear their distinctive calls instead of seeing them. Males vocalize in the morning, evening and sometimes at night. For the most part, they are solitary birds, preferring to be alone or only with one other quail. The exception is during mating season when large flocks (called convoys) gather in groups of about 100 individuals. American mountain whites tend to live in small groups of 11 to 12 birds to help protect each other from predators. Some Old World quail migrate, but most New World quail do not, but live in the same area where they were born.

quail, 2015, farmland, animal wildlife, wildlife
Dense vegetation provides shelter for quail from predators.


They spend most of their time turning the soil to dig for food. Quail especially like to forage in clearings under bushes or near tree leaves. When startled, they will suddenly fly at speeds of up to 40 mph. Other species prefer to remain still when threatened by danger. Some species have bony heel spurs to protect them from predators. Wherever these birds live, they need shelter for perching, rest, nesting, protection from predators and protection from the weather.

Some wild species, such as quail, prefer to roost in dense shrubs or trees. They prefer shade from various vegetation, as dense vegetation can provide shelter from predators. Females build their nests on the ground, lining them with twigs, grass stems, leaves, and feathers, and prefer to hide them under shrubs, rocks, or other protected areas. A dust bath for some quail can help them get rid of pests.

Japanese quail are the most popular birds in captivity. They are raised for meat and eggs, and they are territorial, often defending their homes from intruders. If their environment is overcrowded, they will sometimes resort to pecking or cannibalism.


In California and the Northwest, quail inhabit scrub, sagebrush, woodland, and foothill forests. In the American Southwest and Mexico, they tend to live in semi-arid and scrublands. They are very tolerant of people and can be seen in some urban parks, gardens and agricultural areas.

quail diet

Common quail (Coturnix coturnix) close-up quail
Quails eat seeds, leaves, wheat, barley, flowers and fruit, and occasionally grasshoppers and worms.

These birds are omnivores, but they tend to be mostly vegetarian. Chicks love to eat insects, but as they mature, their diet gradually shifts to plant material. They eat seeds, leaves, wheat, barley, flowers and fruit, and occasionally grasshoppers and worms. Some species, such as quail, readily adjust their diets based on time of year and hydration needs. These quail birds will eat prickly pear fruit and berries if available.

Predators and Threats

Because quails are so small, they have many different animal predators. Many small mammals enjoy eating them, including raccoons, foxes, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, dogs, and cats. Hawks, owls, mice and weasels also prey on quail eggs.

Humans are also known to be carnivores, but the vast majority of quail and quail eggs eaten come from commercial farms. However, hunters in the southeastern United States often hunt wild quail.

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Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

In captivity, quail birds are easy to grow. Although common poultry diseases can affect them, they are somewhat resistant. The most popular domesticated species, the Japanese quail, matures about six weeks after hatching. If cared for properly, they can start breeding when they are 50 to 60 days old. Hens lay an average of 200 eggs in their first year.

The birds live two and a half years in captivity. Combining one male with three females produces high fertility. Eggs take an average of 23 days to hatch. The newly hatched quail chicks are so small that the tank must be filled with pebbles or marbles to keep them from falling into the water, in case of drowning. The pebbles can be removed when the chicks are a week old.

California quail (Callipepla californica) with young
California quail (Callipepla californica) with young. Both males and females care for the chicks.

© Brocken Inaglory/Creative Commons

Some species, such as Gambel's quail, are monogamous, but others, such as the California quail, form broods that contain multiple males and females. During the spring mating season, males compete for territory and compete for females, who build nests of 12 to 16 eggs after fertilization. Both males and females care for the chicks.

Chicks of most species are precocious, meaning they are born well developed and able to leave the nest to follow their parents. After two weeks, they can fly and are fairly independent after three to four weeks. The average lifespan of wild quail is two to three years, but many can live up to five or six years.

Some species, such as the woodcock, have a survival rate of only 20 percent after the first year. Furthermore, only 32% to 44% of the nests hatched successfully. Because of this low survival rate, woodcocks typically try to raise two or three broods per season. For this species, hatching begins in late April and continues until early July.

In general, about 70% to 80% of wild quail are killed each year. High levels of reproduction offset mortality.


There are about 130 species of quail in the world, so the IUCN considers their conservation status to be the least important. Of these species, about 70 were domesticated.

However, in the 1990s, the California quail was considered an endangered species as their numbers dropped below 100 individuals. Their numbers have rebounded and are no longer considered at risk of extinction.

Habitat destruction and uncontrolled hunting have negatively impacted the small number of wild quail. Most notably the southern woodcock, which has suffered losses due to urban sprawl and the destruction of its favorite habitat.

Although the quail is a popular game bird, the species is so widespread that there are no apparent protections or obvious hunting restrictions.

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Quail FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How long do quail live?

The average lifespan of wild quail is one and a half years. Captive quail can live two to three years, although there are differences between species.

What do quail eat – are they carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

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Although quails are technically omnivorous, they tend to eat a mostly vegetarian diet consisting of seeds, plants, certain grains and fruits, and occasionally grasshoppers or worms

What are the feathers on a quail's head for?

The feathers on the quail's head help male birds attract mates. Females generally prefer well-feathered males to bald ones.

Why do quail run instead of fly?

Quail are birds of the chicken family, which means they are plump ground feeders who are not good at flying. They only take off when frightened or migrating.

How far can quail fly?

Most quail cannot fly very far because they flap their wings rapidly and don't have the necessary stamina when high in the air. They usually live within 40 acres of their birthplace.

where do quail sleep

Most quail species dig hidden cavities under tall grass or bushes, against trees, or near rock formations.

To which kingdom do quails belong?

Quails belong to the animal kingdom.

What phylum do quails belong to?

Quails belong to the phylum Chordata.

What class do quails belong to?

Quails belong to the class Aves.

What family do quail belong to?

Quails belong to the pheasant family.

What order do quails belong to?

Quails belong to the order Galliformes.

What genus do quails belong to?

Quails belong to the genus Quail.

What type of mulch do quail have?

Quails are covered with feathers.

What type of habitat do quail live in?

Quail live in woodland and forest areas.

What are the distinctive features of quail?

Quails have small bodies and brightly colored eggs.

What are the natural enemies of quail?

Predators of quail include cats, snakes and raccoons.

What is the average clutch size for a quail?

Quail usually lay 6 eggs.

What interesting facts about quail?

Quail inhabit woodlands and forested areas all over the world!

What is the scientific name of quail?

The scientific name of quail is Quail Coturnix.

What is the wingspan of a quail?

Quails have a wingspan of 30 cm to 37 cm (12 inches to 14.6 inches).

What is the main difference between quail and pheasant?

The main differences between pheasant and quail are size, color, lifespan, diet, habitat, species and temperament.

What is the main difference between grouse and quail?

The key differences between quail and grouse are their habitat, size, lifespan, appearance, number of species, and conservation status.

What is the main difference between patridge and quail?

The main differences between partridge and quail are size, appearance, diet, lifespan, habitat, habits and availability as pets.

What is the difference between chukar and quail?

The main differences between chukar and quail are size, appearance, physical characteristics, lifespan, habitat and habits.

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