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A photo of a Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), male
Common Quail, Male

Common Quail

Coturnix coturnix

The common quail, Coturnix coturnix, is a diminutive and elusive member of the pheasant family Phasianidae. This migratory game bird is known for its compact form, measuring 16–18 cm in length with a wingspan of 32–35 cm, and weighing between 70 to 140 grams. The plumage is predominantly streaked brown, with males distinguished by a white eyestripe and chin.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the common quail, look for its small, stocky build and brown streaked appearance. The male's white eyestripe and chin are key distinguishing features. Its long wings are an adaptation to its migratory lifestyle, setting it apart from other typically short-winged gamebirds.

Habitat

The common quail is a terrestrial bird, favoring open landscapes where it can forage on the ground. It is adept at remaining concealed within crops and is more likely to scurry away than take flight when disturbed.

Distribution

Breeding across the western Palearctic, the common quail migrates to winter in Africa and southern India. Its presence spans Europe and North Africa, with various subspecies occupying regions from northwest Africa to Mongolia and north India.

Behaviour

This species is known for its secretive nature, often detected by its distinctive male call rather than sight. It is a strong migrant, which is unusual for game birds. The common quail has been introduced unsuccessfully to Mauritius and is likely extinct there.

Song & Calls

The male common quail's call is a characteristic series of three chirps, often described as a "wet-my-lips" sound, typically heard in the early morning, evening, or at night.

Breeding

The breeding season sees males arriving first at the breeding grounds. Females lay 8 to 13 eggs in a shallow ground scrape, which are incubated solely by the female after the entire clutch is laid. The eggs hatch synchronously, and the precocial young are cared for by the female, leaving the nest shortly after hatching.

Similar Species

The common quail can be confused with the Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, but the latter has a very distinct call and is native to Asia.

Diet and Feeding

Common quails feed on seeds and insects, foraging on the ground and adept at staying hidden while doing so.

Conservation status

Globally, the common quail is listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, although it is considered "Near Threatened" in Europe. It is heavily hunted during its migratory passage through the Mediterranean.

Relationship to humans

The common quail is hunted as game, particularly in the Mediterranean region. It has seen an increase in propagation by hobbyists in the United States and Europe, though it is declining in some areas, such as Ireland.

Poisoning

Consumption of common quail meat can sometimes lead to coturnism, a condition that may cause muscle soreness and potentially kidney failure, if the birds have ingested certain toxic plants.

In culture

The common quail is mentioned in the Bible, where a great number of quails were provided as food for the Israelites in the wilderness.

Common Quail Sounds


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