Coturnix novaezelandiaeNew Zealand quail

Geographic Range

New Zealand quail were the only quail endemic to New Zealand (Alderton, 1992) and they are now extinct (Brooks, 2000). (Alderton, 1992; Brooks, 2000)


These quail were terrestrial, temperate species that inhabited grasslands (Johnsgard, 1988) and perhaps lowland tussock grassland and open fernlands (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Alderton, 1992; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

Physical Description

New Zealand quail were 17.5 (Alderton, 1992) to 22 cm (Madge and McGowan, 2002) long and weighed 200 to 220 g. Measurements of two males showed wing lengths of 118 and 122 mm, tail lengths of 45 and 47 mm and a tarsal length of 23 mm. For one female specimen, wing length was 119 mm and for two female specimens, tail lengths were 42 and 43 mm and tarsal lengths were 23 and 28 mm (Madge and McGowan, 2002).

New Zealand quail were a dark brownish color above with buff to cream-colored vertical markings on each feather covering the back and upper parts of the wings. The wing primaries were edged in a golden buff. The breast and abdomen of the male were buff with heavy markings of dark brown to black. The female had a buff breast and abdomen with feathers edged in a dark brown. For the male, an orangish-light rufous color covered the area around the eye extending down the side of the face and the front of the throat. For the female, this area was a light buff color with a darker buff surrounding the eye. Both males and females had a brown crown and a whitish strip extending from the beak over the eye to the back of the neck (Alderton, 1992). New Zealand quail on the North Island may have been darker overall than those on the South Island, however, with few specimen available it is difficult to determine the range of morphological variation. Juveniles were similar in color to females, but had more pale coloration on their underparts (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Alderton, 1992; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    200 to 220 g
    7.05 to 7.75 oz
  • Range length
    17.5 to 22 cm
    6.89 to 8.66 in


We do not have information on the mating system of New Zealand quail, however, given that a family of nine quail that were shot and killed consisted of an adult male, an adult female, and seven young, it is posible that they were monogamous. (Madge and McGowan, 2002)

New Zealand quail nests were shallow scrapes in the ground with grass lining. Ten to twelve eggs were laid per clutch, and incubation time was 21 days. The eggs were a buff color with dark brown blotches or a whitish-yellow color with smudged brown spots. With respect to the breeding season, young were seen as late as April on the South Island (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Range eggs per season
    10 to 12
  • Average time to hatching
    21 days

We do not have information on parental care for this species, however, given that a family of nine quail that were shot and killed consisted of an adult male, an adult female, and seven young, it is likely that there was both male and female parental care. Chicks were precocial. (Johnsgard, 1988; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

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


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


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

Home Range

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

Communication and Perception

Male New Zealand quail uttered an advertisement call described as "twit-twit-twit-twee-twit," that was repeated in rapid succession (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Madge and McGowan, 2002)

Food Habits

New Zealand quail foraged on the ground in search of seeds (Johnsgard, 1988). Stomach contents of dead quail had green grass leaves as well as seed (Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1988; Madge and McGowan, 2002)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


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

Ecosystem Roles

New Zealand quail had an impact on the plants they consumed.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

New Zealand quail were hunted and eaten as food (Alderton, 1992). (Alderton, 1992)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of New Zealand quail on humans.

Conservation Status

The extinction of New Zealand quail is thought to have been caused by the appearance of diseases from introduced game birds. They were also heavily hunted and their numbers declined in the 1850's. This species of Coturnix became extinct in 1875 (Alderton, 1992; Brooks, 2000). (Alderton, 1992; Brooks, 2000)

Other Comments

New Zealand quail were closely related to pectoral or stubble quail, Coturnix pectoralis (Johnsgard, 1988; Madge and McGowan, 2002). (Johnsgard, 1988; Madge and McGowan, 2002)


Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

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



uses sound to communicate

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


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


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).


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.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


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


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.

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.

Brooks, T. 2000. "Coturnix novaezelandiae. In: IUCN 2003. 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." (On-line). Accessed 12/03/03 at

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

Madge, S., P. McGowan. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse: A Guide to the Pheasants, Partridges, Quails, Grouse, Guineafowl, Buttonquails and Sandgrouse of the World. London: Christopher Helm.