The Common Quail, Coturnix coturnix, is a small bird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. It is widespread and is found in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa with several subspecies recognized. They are also bred and kept as poultry in some parts of the world both for eggs and meat.
It is a small (17 cm) rotund bird, essentially streaked brown with a white eyestripe, and, in the male, a black chin. As befits its migratory nature, it has long wings, unlike the typically short-winged gamebirds.
This is a terrestrial species, feeding on seeds and insects on the ground. It is notoriously difficult to see, keeping hidden in crops, and reluctant to fly, preferring to creep away instead. Even when flushed, it keeps low and soon drops back into cover. Often the only indication of its presence is the distinctive "wet-my-lips" repetitive song of the male. The call is uttered mostly in the mornings, evenings and sometimes at night. It is a strongly migratory bird, unlike most gamebirds.
Upon attaining an age of 6-8 weeks, this quail breeds on open arable farmland and grassland across most of Europe and Asia, laying 6-18 eggs in a ground nest. The eggs take from 16-18 days to hatch.
This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Tetrao coturnix. The Eurasian race, C. c. coturnix, overwinters southwards in Africa's Sahel and India. The African race, C. c. africana, overwinters within Africa, some moving northwards from South Africa. The Common Quails of Madagascar and the Comoros belong to the same African race. The fairly numerous population of the Cape Verde islands, however belong to a separate race, C. c. inopinata, while those on the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores belong to race C. c. confisa.
Exodus 16:1-13 relates how the migrating Israelites relied on migrating quail for food. It is still heavily hunted as game on passage through the Mediterranean area. This species over recent years has seen an increase in its propagation in the United States and Europe, however most of this increase is with hobbyists.
Female Common Quail
Common Quail eggs compared to a chicken egg