A couple of weeks ago my colleague Sarah wrote Bird Talk, an interesting article full of feathery facts about birds. In it she set you a challenge – how many birds can you think of beginning with the letters E and Q? E is not so hard, there’s eagles, emus and eiders, but what about Q? I don’t know about you, but there is only one bird I can think of beginning with Q – the quail.
There are 32 different species of quail and they can be found in every continent save for Antarctica. So let’s find out the qualities of quails:
- They are solitary birds for the most part – except during the breeding season. At this time of year they gather together into very large flocks as each quail searches for a mate
- Most clutches contain around six eggs, though sometimes a female can lay as many as a dozen. These hatch about three weeks after they are laid
- Quails grow up very quickly. They can leave the nest soon after they hatch and are fully grown after just 2 months!
- Most quails live in woodland where they can take cover beneath the undergrowth
- They spend most of their time on the ground, though quails can fly if they really need to. Most only fly for very short distances in order to evade a predator but some species fly hundreds of miles when they migrate
- Quail species vary in size but none of them are very large. The biggest quail is just 20cm long whilst the smallest is only 10cm
- They are omnivores which mean they eat animals and plants. Seeds and berries make up most of their diet but they also like the occasional worm or insect
- They were domesticated long ago and have now become a type of poultry, prized for their eggs as well as their meat
- Quails have many natural predators – snakes, birds of prey, foxes and cats for example. And, of course, humans
That’s right – as well as being farmed, quails are also hunted. Overhunting has significantly reduced the number of wild quails. Added to this is the effect of habitat loss. Forests are chopped down to make way for farms and this has made some species of quail endangered.
There is only one species of quail here in the UK – the common quail. If you fancy yourself as a bird enthusiast then have a go at this quiz on British birds and see if you can spot the common quail hiding somewhere in there!