Coturnix delegorgueiharlequin quail

Geographic Range

Harlequin quail are found in Kenya, Uganda (Jackson, 1926), east to the Ivory Coast and to south Africa (Clancy, 1967; Alderton, 1992) except for the Congo basin and Namibia (Johnsgard, 1988). They are also found in most of Madagascar (Johnsgard, 1988). (Alderton, 1992; Clancy, 1967; Jackson, 1926; Johnsgard, 1988)


These quail are tropical, terrestrial species that inhabit open grasslands (Jackson, 1926; Alderton, 1992). Their habitat, and therefore their distribution is restricted by forested areas (Kuz'mina, 1992). However, these quail will inhabit cultivated areas (Clancy, 1967). (Alderton, 1992; Clancy, 1967; Jackson, 1926; Kuz'mina, 1992)

Physical Description

Male harlequin quail have a black and white facial mask, black chest edged with rufous-colored feathers, black abdomen, and rufous-colored flanks. Females have a faint black necklace, brown-spotted abdomen, and lightly rufous-colored flanks (Jackson, 1926; Trollope, 1966). These quail range in length from 16 (Alderton, 1992) to 20 cm (Jackson, 1926) and weigh 57 to 71 g. (Alderton, 1992; Jackson, 1926; Trollope, 1966)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    57 to 71 g
    2.01 to 2.50 oz
  • Range length
    16 to 20 cm
    6.30 to 7.87 in


Harlequin quail exhibit what is called tidbitting, whereby the male offers an insect to the female. The male will also raise his wings slightly and chase the female (Trollope, 1966). Males are aggressive toward one another in preparation for the breeding season (Clancy, 1967). The pair-bond between males and females is very strong (Johnsgard, 1988). (Clancy, 1967; Johnsgard, 1988; Trollope, 1966)

Harlequin quail nest on the ground in a scrape lined with weeds. Usually, the nest is hidden within grassy vegetation (Trollope, 1966; Clancy, 1967).

The hen lays from three (Alderton, 1992) to nine eggs in a clutch (Jackson, 192; Trollope, 1966). The eggs are light buff or cream-colored to olive brown with heavy reddish-brown, dark chestnut, or purple-brown markings and are 27 to 31 mm long by 22 to 25 mm wide (Jackson, 1926; Trollope, 1966). Incubation lasts 17 to 18 days (Clancy, 1967; Alderton, 1992). The hen may lay two to three clutches per season (Alderton, 1992).

In southern Africa, these quail breed from October to March, most breeding occurs in late December to January. Rain is the main factor controlling the breeding season (Clancy, 1967; Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992; Clancy, 1967; Jackson, 1926; Trollope, 1966)

  • Breeding interval
    These quail breed yearly and may have two or three clutches per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from October to March.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 9
  • Range time to hatching
    17 to 18 days

Chicks are precocial, and are a yellowish-buff color with heavy dark-brown stripes and are reared by the female. They can scratch for food on their own at thirteen days old and will take dust baths at fifteen days old (Trollope, 1966). (Trollope, 1966)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


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


Harlequin quail are migratory at the northern and southern most parts of their range (Clancy, 1967; Johnsgard, 1988; Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992; Clancy, 1967; Johnsgard, 1988)

Home Range

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

Communication and Perception

When isolated from each other, males and females will call to one another. Males utter a loud "whit-whit-wheet, whit-whit wheet-whit," and females answer with "quick-ic" or "queet-ic" (Trollope, 1966). When flushed from hiding, a squeaky "kree" is heard (Clancy, 1967). (Clancy, 1967; Trollope, 1966)

Food Habits

Harlequin quail eat a variety of weed and grass seeds including mixed millets and maw (Trollope, 1967) and shoots and leaves of plants (Clancy, 1967). They also eat small worms, insects and their larvae (such as white worms, maggots, and mealworms) (Trollope, 1966) and small land mollusks (Clancy, 1967). (Clancy, 1967; Trollope, 1966; Clancy, 1967; Trollope, 1966; Clancy, 1967; Trollope, 1966; Clancy, 1967; Trollope, 1966)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


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

Ecosystem Roles

Harlequin quail affect both the plants they eat and the prey they feed on.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Harlequin quail consume weed seeds and help prevent growth of unwanted plants.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of harlequin quail on humans.

Conservation Status

Harlequin quail are not listed by either the IUCN or CITES.

Other Comments

Harlequin quail were first bred in captivity by D. Seth-Smith in 1906 in England (Hopkinson, 1926; Trollope, 1966). (Hopkinson, 1926; Trollope, 1966)


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


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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


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


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


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


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

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


Living on the ground.


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.

Clancy, P. 1967. Gamebirds of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Purnell & Sons Ltd.

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

Jackson, F. 1926. Notes on the Game Birds of Kenya and Uganda. London: Williams & Norgate, Ltd.

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

Kuz'mina, M. 1992. Tetraonidae and Phasianidae of the USSR: Ecology and Morphology. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Trollope, J. 1966. Some observations on the Harlequin Quail. Avicultural Magazine, 72(1): 5-6.