Quails are small birds inhabiting woodlands and forests around the globe. There are many species of quail, varying slightly in appearance and size. They are closely related to the larger pheasants. Quails inhabit Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Americas. There are three subfamilies in the quail family: Old World quails and partridges; New World quails; and true pheasants and seafowls.
Quails can be covered in brown, black, gray, white and blue feathers with a scale-like pattern on some parts of their bodies. Some species of quail have plumes, or topknots, shaped like a teardrop on top of their heads that bob when the quail is walking.
Quails can fly short distances, but spend the majority of their time on ground level. Most quails do not migrate, living their lives in one area. They usually settle to the ground by gliding. They can be diurnal, active during the day, or nocturnal, active at night, depending on the species of quail.
Some quails are solitary birds or live in pairs. Other quail species are very social. Some live in small flocks known as coveys.
Quails are omnivores, but prefer a mostly vegetarian diet. They feed on seeds, flowers, barley, wheat and fruits. They occasionally eat insects.
Quails communicate with high pitched sounds, grunts and cackles. They bath in dust to eliminate pests and to clean their plumage.
Quails will run when they are in danger. Some species are able to fly away quickly. Other quail species become motionless when threatened. Some quails have heeled spurs, bony structures used to fight off predators.
During the mating season large flocks of quails gather together. Quails are ready to mate at 2 months old. They usually breed in open areas such as farmland. Males will compete for females. Female quail lay one to 20 eggs in nests, depending on the species of quail. Nests are typically constructed on the ground below a shrub or other covering plant. Baby quails hatch in less than a month. They are ready to leave the nest and follow their parents shortly after birth. Both the mother and the father quail usually care for the chicks.
Being small birds, quails have many natural predators. Raccoons, foxes, snakes, coyotes, squirrels, bobcats, dogs, skunks, cats, owls, hawks, rats and weasels hunt quails and their eggs.
Quails live up to 5 years in the wild.
THREATS TO QUAILS
Quails are victims of hunting for meat, feathers and sport on game farms or in the wild. Habitat destruction and hunting have negatively affected quail populations around the world. Some species of quails are endangered. Quail are also used in inhumane animal research experiments.
Species of quail have declined by over 90 percent due to hunting. In some countries, baby quails are fired from a cannon and then shot down.
Quail are farmed for their eggs and meat. Factory farmed quails suffer from intense confinement, overcrowding, stress, de-beaking, diseases, ammonia fumes and rough handling.
One of the main threats to quails is the reduction of food and cover from overgrazing by the animal agriculture industry. Pesticides from animal agriculture also threatens quails.
Quails are also victims of the pet trade. Quails are timid and easily startled by sudden noises in captivity. In cages they are easily injured, or even killed, when they attempt to fly.