Sunday, 3 February 2013

Common Quail

order : Galliformes      Genus & Species : Phasianidae     Family : Coturnix coturnix

The common quail is one of the most secretive of all gamebirds, and is rarely seen, even by birdwatchers. It lives most of its life hidden deep within dense vegetation. A tiny gamebird the size of a plump starling, the quail prefers to run and hide rather than fly, but manages to migrate great distances each year. They breeds across Europe into Asia, northern, southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar; winters in much of Africa, India and the eastern Himalayas. 

Habitat :  The common quail usually shuns shrub and woodland habitats, and this secretive bird also avoids bare ground. Sunny areas with light, well-drained soils of chalk, sand or peat are popular haunts. The quail has adapted well to the spread of agriculture. It can be found in large fields of crops, especially winter wheat and clover, but also oats, barley, rye, rape, lucerne, flax and meadow grasses. 
Food & Feeding : More than 100 species of food plant have been recorded in the quail’s diet. Staple foods include seeds of grasses, cereals and weeds, but the quail also eats beetles, bugs, ants, earwigs and grasshoppers, as well as spiders, snails and worms. Animal food is important in spring and early summer, when seeds are scarce and females need as much protein as possible to prepare for breeding. The chicks probably bulk up on high-protein insects, too. Whether pecking at wind-scattered seeds or invertebrates, the quail feeds mainly on the ground. Sometimes it catches flies, ants and other flying insects by fluttering up to 3' above the ground. 
Behavior : Shy and wary, the quail spends most of its life among dense cover. Reluctant to fly even when disturbed, it usually goes unnoticed unless flushed from hiding. Startled in this way, a quail springs suddenly into the air, often giving a low trilling call. It flies fast and low before dropping down into cover. After the brief flight, the bird tends to run a safe distance, and effectively melts from view.
Breeding : The male utters his loud, staccato call in spring and early summer to attract a mate. He is most vocal at dawn and dusk and generally silent once he has found a mate. A female may mate with several males. The female quail nests on the ground, in a shallow scrape lined with grass.Clutch size ranges from 7–18 eggs. These are incubated solely by the female for up to three weeks. The chicks are well developed, leaving the nest within hours of hatching. And then their mother may lay a second clutch. 

Wings : The relatively long, pointed wings contrast with the shorter, rounded wings of other gamebirds. They enable the quail to fly far and fast on migration. 
Plumage : The male’s plumage varies between individuals: races breeding in Europe and Asia are paler and grayer, while African breeders are darker and reddish-brown.The female has a plainer pattern on her head than does the male, with duller markings and no neck or throat bands. 
Legs & Feet : The legs and feet are slender, with sharp, narrow claws that are well-suited for scratching at the soil for seeds and insects. 
Chick : Clad in down and able to feed itself soon after hatching, the chick can flutter short distances when it’s 11 days old, and flies when it’s 19 days old. 

Weight : 2.5–5.4 oz.
Length : 6.4-7.2"
Wingspan : 13-14"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : Varies with location

Across England, the quail has many quaint old local names, such as wet-my-lips, wet-my-feet and but-for-but. Other traditional common names for this bird include quailzie, throsher, deadchick and rine.

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