quail facts

10 Quail Facts About The Stout Small Pheasants

Quails are small birds with stocky bodies, and some have unique headdresses. They often live a ground-based lifestyle in forests, cultivated fields, and urban landscapes across Asia to South America. Whether you're a bird lover or simply curious, our quail facts will help you understand their behaviors and characteristics.

Even if they are flying birds, quails live mainly on the ground. They also clean themselves with dust. If these fun facts pique your interest, browse our quail facts now to dig deeper into the lives of these birds.

Do you want to read more about avians in general? Learn more with our bird facts.

10 Quail Facts You Need To Know

quail on the ground
Photo by Becky Matsubara on Flickr CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

1. Quails are tiny birds with unique traits.

Quails are small birds belonging to the pheasant family or the Phasianidae. They typically weigh between three to seven ounces and measure 4.5 to 7 inches long. They have plump bodies, truncated tails, and mottled feathers of multi-colored patterns. These characteristics make them suitable for their ground-dwelling lifestyle. 

There are various species of quail with different blends of colors. When you search for pictures of a common quail, the blue-gray California quail, and the bobwhite quail, they are all unique on their own. Regarding size, the 100-gram quail farming quails are the world's smallest farm bird.

Wild quail gather in groups called 'coveys' during the non-breeding season, each comprising up to 100 birds. Within the covey, each bird has a distinctive call with a specific purpose, ranging from warning others of nearby predators to simple greetings.

Quail eat seeds, grass seeds, berries, and small insects. Despite their size, quails use their resources effectively.

2. Quails make distinctive sounds.

pheasant with feather on head perched on a branch

Despite their size, these ground dwellers produce various sounds. For example, the common quail makes a call that sounds like "sip," which people call "wet my lips."

Notably, male quails have a unique call called the "crow," consisting of a three-note melody. This call attracts potential mates and communicates with quail companions; one can hear this call from a great distance. Moreover, this call is not a random sound but rather a strategic means of communication.

Meanwhile, females have a softer call to communicate with their peers. The birds also have a sudden sharp call that warns the entire group of potential danger. 

Explore other birds with distinguishable sounds with our owl facts and crow facts.

3. Quails are masters of camouflage.

Quail feathers typically come in shades of brown, gray, and cream. These colors allow them to blend seamlessly into their natural ground habitats. Additionally, quail eggs have splotches that make it difficult for predators to spot. This disguise skill is essential for their survival in the wild.

The quail bird's artistry in color matching and pattern goes beyond aesthetics. This skill is these birds' primary shield against potential threats, remaining invisible to predators even when in direct line of sight. The camouflage strategy is so effective that the birds stay quiet and still instead of running away when faced with danger. 

Do you know animals can clean without water? The quail fact below mentions a unique way of bathing.

4. Quails bathe in dust.

resting brown quail
Photo by Ayman Ahmed on Unsplash

Quails commonly do dust bathing1, an unusual activity integral to their daily routine. They create shallow depressions in the ground, typically in sandy or dusty areas, and cover themselves in dust. Moreover, they often ruffle their feathers to ensure the dust reaches their skin.

Many species of quail have a preference for where they take their dust baths, often returning to the same spot day after day. Notably, dust bathing helps eliminate parasites and excess oil. The quails shake vigorously to distribute the dust, resulting in healthier and more vibrant plumage.

Dust bathing gathers flocks, creating a bonding experience. The dust also gives the quails camouflage, allowing them to blend into their surroundings. 

5. Quail meat can be poisonous.

As innocent as they look, eating quails is dangerous because of their consumption of hemlock seeds2. Eating toxic quail meat may result in coturnism, a rare but potent poisoning that only affects humans. Its symptoms include muscle tenderness, nausea, and vomiting. On the other hand, the toxins do not affect these game birds.

During their migration, quails consume more toxic plants, leading to a higher incidence of coturnism in humans. Despite the risks, many cultures enjoy quail meat for its distinct flavor and texture. Quail eggs are also a delicious treat everywhere.

Even if they're mid-sized birds, our next quail fact about their migration behavior will surprise you.

6. Quails can travel great distances.

quail closeup
Photo by Y S on Unsplash

Quails, flying up to 50 mph, can cover long distances due to their distinctive flight pattern, not wing size, which is relatively small compared to other bird species. Wild quail have flying abilities that allow them to move swiftly without depleting their energy reserves. They have a rapid wing beat interspersed with brief gliding periods, enabling them to soar high and coast gently. 

Some quail species, like the Northern Bobwhite, prefer to stay in their home range. But they can take flight when necessary, crossing impressive distances.

7. Quails are monogamous.

Quails are solitary birds that practice monogamy, starting a lifelong commitment to one mate. During mating season, male quails display vibrant plumage and dance with distinctive, musical calls.

Monogamy in quails is a survival strategy. After mating, the female quail lays up to 28 speckled eggs in a skillfully camouflaged ground nest to avoid predators. The male quail watches over the nest while the female incubates the eggs. Moreover, they both teach their chicks essential survival skills.

Flying to colder regions, let's explore the world of another monogamous bird through our penguin facts.

8. Quails build nests on the ground.

Their strong legs and tough feet enable them to navigate uneven terrain easily. Additionally, these attributes are helpful for nest-building. 

Quails lay their bright eggs in sheltered areas with dense vegetation to conceal their nests from predators. The quail's nest is essentially a shallow depression in the soil, adorned with grass, leaves, and other plant materials. Moreover, the ground nest provides a quick escape route if a predator gets too close.

9. Quail chicks can leave the nest soon after hatching.

two birds with feather on head
Photo by Vijayalakshmi Nidugondi on Unsplash

Quail chicks leave their nests and explore their surroundings within a few hours of hatching. Unlike many other newborn birds, quail chicks are precocial, ready to tackle life outside their protective shells without relying heavily on their parents.

The survival of quail chicks largely depends on their ability to develop rapidly, facilitated by their high-protein insect diet. These baby birds display notable self-reliance, taking it upon themselves to forage while their mother quail watches over them. 

In addition, they can fly confidently and independently within a short period. However, they still depend on their mother during nighttime to provide them with warmth and security.

10. Many species of quail face various threats.

Quails face significant challenges to their survival. Although the California Quail and the blue quail are currently species of "Least Concern," according to the IUCN, these terrestrial birds are battling various threats.

One of the primary threats is habitat loss caused by urban expansion and agricultural development, forcing quails to search for new homes. Furthermore, modern farming practices introduce harmful chemicals into their environment, which can risk their food sources. Climate change is another significant threat; unpredictable weather patterns can destabilize their environment.

Remember to share these quail facts with fellow bird lovers.

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with Q.

1

Healy, W. M., & Thomas, J. W. (1973). Effects of Dusting on Plumage of Japanese Quail. The Wilson Bulletin, 85(4), 442–448.

2

Korkmaz, İ., Güven, F. M. K., Eren, Ş. H., & Doğan, Z. (2011). Quail Consumption can be Harmful. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 41(5), 499–502.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Chinny Verana, BSc.

Photo by Elisa Stone on Unsplash
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