Coturnix coturnixcommon quail

Geographic Range

These migratory quail (Hoffmann, 1988; Alderton, 1992) have a breeding range in Europe, Turkey, and central Asia to China. They winter in India, China, southeast Asia, the extreme northwestern coast of Africa, and other parts of Africa, including a subsaharan band in central Africa, the Nile River valley from Egypt to Kenya, and Angola. There are African races in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi south to Namibia, South Africa, and Mozambique as well as in parts of Madagascar (Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992; Hoffmann, 1988)


Common quail are terrestrial, temperate and tropical birds. Grasslands are the general habitat of common quail. Dense, tall vegetation is preferred, while forest edges and hedgerows are avoided. Cultivated fields of winter wheat, clover, and small grain crops are also used as nesting cover (Johnsgard, 1988). (Johnsgard, 1988)

Physical Description

Common quail are approximately 17.5 cm in length (Alderton, 1992) and weigh 70 to 155 g. The wing length of males is 110 to 115 mm and 107 to 116 mm for females. The tail measures 31 to 38 mm for males and 36 to 44 mm for females (Johnsgard, 1988). (Alderton, 1992; Johnsgard, 1988)

  • Range mass
    70 to 155 g
    2.47 to 5.46 oz
  • Average length
    17.5 cm
    6.89 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.891 W


Common quail pair-bonds can be very strong (Johnsgard, 1988). Males arrive in breeding areas prior to the females. They utter loud, gutteral "growl calls" in advance of the territorial call. Once the females arrive, they locate a nest site, then respond to the male's call with an "attraction call" which is a "whic! whic-ic" or " whit-whit'tit." The local male in that territory then engages in a "circle-display" for the female by ruffling his throat and breast feathers, his wing nearest the female droops to the ground, and he dances about in a circle around the female while uttering soft notes. Males will also engage in tidbitting. The female responds with an "invitation call" just prior to copulation (Johnsgard, 1988). (Johnsgard, 1988)

Common quail construct their nests in grass. In Europe the breeding season is from mid-May to late August; in Africa, breeding occurs from September to March, although in Kenya they breed during the wet season, from January to February. Common quail may have up to three clutches per season (Johnsgard, 1988).

Eggs are pure white and approximately 2.5 cm or slightly larger in length (Hoffmann, 1988). They weigh approximately 8.5 g (Johnsgard, 1988). As with many quail, Coturnix are prolific layers (Hoffmann, 1988). Common quail in Europe lay between 8 and 13 eggs per clutch. In Africa, a clutch consists of 6 to 12 eggs; however, the larger number may reflect laying by two females (Johnsgard, 1988). Incubation time is 17 to 20 days (Johnsgard, 1988; Alderton, 1992).

The young quail are able to fly when they are eleven days old (Johnsgard, 1988; Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992; Hoffmann, 1988; Johnsgard, 1988)

  • Breeding interval
    Common quail breed once yearly and can have up to three clutches per season.
  • Breeding season
    In Europe, May to August. In Africa, September to March (January to February in some parts).
  • Range eggs per season
    6 to 13
  • Range time to hatching
    17 to 20 days

Common quail chicks are precocial. (Johnsgard, 1988)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization


We do not have information on the lifespan/longevity for this species at this time.

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    11 years


Common quail and Japanese quail embark on long distance migrations. Quail no more than two months old have been reported from areas of Europe and northern Africa (Johnsgard, 1988). Common quail fly at night (Alderton, 1992).

Males hold breeding territories where they call and display to attract females (Johnsgard, 1988). (Alderton, 1992; Johnsgard, 1988)

Home Range

We do not have information on the home range of this species at this time.

Communication and Perception

When on breeding territories male common quail utter loud, gutteral "growl calls" in advance of the territorial call. Females respond to the male's call with an "attraction call" which is a "whic! whic-ic" or " whit-whit'tit." The local male in that territory then engages in the "circle-display" to the female by ruffling his throat and breast feathers, his wing nearest the female droops to the ground, and he dances about in a circle around the female while uttering soft notes. Females give an "invitation call" just prior to copulation (Johnsgard, 1988). (Johnsgard, 1988)

Food Habits

In general, common quail consume vegetative matter; however, their protein intake is greater than that of Chinese painted quail, Coturnix chinensis. Females require a high protein diet for breeding (Johnsgard, 1988). Weed seeds, cereal gleanings, and small insects and their larvae, including beetles, true bugs, ants, earwigs, and orthopterans are consumed (Johnsgard, 1988; Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992; Johnsgard, 1988)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


We do not have information on predation for this species at this time.

Ecosystem Roles

Common quail have an impact on the plants and insects they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Common quail and their eggs provide food for humans. They are also common, well-liked birds of aviaries.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Humans are not adversely affected by common quail.

Conservation Status

Common quail are not listed by either the IUCN or CITES. However, local population declines have been reported as a result of habitat changes and hunting (Johnsgard, 1988). (Johnsgard, 1988)

Other Comments

Coturnix have been depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs dating back to circa 5000 B.C. (Hoffmann, 1988). These quail have been bred in captivity in large numbers since the 1920's (Hopkinson, 1926).

Coloration is very similar to Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica. The ranges of these two quail overlap, and they interbreed; therefore, the taxonomic status of C. coturnix and C. japonica has not been settled (Johnsgard, 1988; Alderton, 1992).

DNA hybridization data indicate that Coturnix is closely related to Francolinus and Alectoris (Johnsgard, 1988). (Alderton, 1992; Hoffmann, 1988; Hopkinson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1988)


Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Janice Pappas (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Alderton, D. 1992. The Atlas of Quails. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications.

Hoffmann, E. 1988. Coturnix Quail. Canning, Nova Scotia: Hoffmann.

Hopkinson, E. 1926. Records of Birds Bred in Captivity. London: H.F. & G. Witherby.

Johnsgard, P. 1988. The Quails, Partridges, and Francolins of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.