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Species Guide
A photo of a Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica)
Japanese Quail

Japanese Quail

Coturnix japonica

The Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, also known as the coturnix quail, is a species of Old World quail native to East Asia. It is a small ground-dwelling bird with a robust body and a short tail. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males and females sporting different plumage patterns and colors. Domestication has led to a variety of strains with diverse plumage.

Identification Tips

Adult Japanese quails can be identified by their brown plumage, which varies in shade and markings. Males have a uniform dark reddish-brown breast devoid of spots and may display a white collar, while females have pale feathers with dark spots on the breast. The male's cheek is reddish-brown, contrasting with the female's cream-colored cheek. In the wild, males have distinctive rufous throat feathers during the breeding season, which are replaced by pale feathers outside of this period.


The Japanese quail prefers dense vegetation for cover, such as grassy fields, riverbank bushes, and agricultural fields with crops like oats, rice, and barley. It is also found in open habitats like steppes, meadows, and mountain slopes near water sources.


This quail species is found across East Asia and Russia, including India, Korea, Japan, and China. It migrates southward to regions like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and southern China during winter. Breeding populations are concentrated in East and Central Asia, with some European and Turkish regions also hosting these birds.


Japanese quails have a limited sense of taste but can distinguish certain tastes and smells, such as sucrose solutions and the presence of pesticides. They exhibit frontal overlap of the eye fields for long-distance perception and color vision. Dust bathing is a common behavior for feather maintenance and parasite removal.

Song & Calls

The species has a repertoire of 28 call types, varying between males and females. The typical male crow consists of two short notes followed by a trill, which can expedite female gonad development.


Japanese quails display both monogamous and polygamous relationships. Breeding peaks in summer, with males showing distinctive mating rituals. Females lay eggs in the late afternoon, with incubation lasting about 16.5 days. Females are solely responsible for incubation and care for the hatchlings.

Similar Species

The Japanese quail is similar to the common quail, Coturnix coturnix, but can be distinguished by its darker upperparts, more contrasting plumage, and deeper rufous coloration below.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of grass seeds, such as white millet and panicum, as well as insects, larvae, and other small invertebrates. Feeding primarily occurs at dawn and dusk, although they may eat and drink throughout the day.

Conservation status

The Japanese quail is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it faces a risk of becoming endangered in the near future.

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Japanese Quails on Birda

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Greg Green
18 Jun 2023 - 7:07am

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