Coturnix coturnix (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Galliformes > Phasianidae
This small gamebird is secretive and hard to see, although its characteristic sweet ‘wet-my-lips’ call gives away its presence in the countryside.
The Quail is a summer visitor to Britain, and may be encountered anywhere in lowland Britain where there is plenty of arable farmland and open grassland. Quail arrive very late in spring and early summer.
In some years – known as a 'quail year' – the numbers arriving in Britain are much larger than usual. BirdTrack data show 2011 to be one such year, when the number of singing males reported approached 2,000 birds. That year there was also an unusual concentration of birds in the southern Scottish Borders.
Quail identification is often straightforward.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Quail, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
This summer migrant is monitored by the RBBP but its status is difficult to assess as numbers can fluctuate from year to year. Occupation is often sporadic and birds do not necessarily use the same sites each year. Occasional invasions ('Quail years') occur and may be caused by spring weather conditions although this is unclear. RBBP data suggest that numbers in the UK have been stable over the 25 years to 2019 and show a five-year mean of 370 males over the period 2015–2019 (Eaton et al. 2021). The same report suggests a northward shift in mean breeding latitude of almost 5 km per annum has occurred over the last 30 years
Quail breeding season records are distributed throughout lowland England, where arable farmland and open grassland predominate, plus in a narrow band along the eastern side of Scotland as far north as Shetland.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||873|
|% occupied in breeding season||29|
|No. occupied in winter||3|
|% occupied in winter||0.1|
European Distribution Map
As Quail numbers vary markedly from year to year, range changes depend on how many 'Quail years' each atlas experienced. Nevertheless, areas of calcareous soils in southern Britain seem to be consistently occupied in all atlases.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+113%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+100%|
Quails are summer visitor, mostly arriving from late May onwards. After July probably under-recorded once males stop singing.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.
Lifecycle and body size information about Quail, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Typical Lifespan||2 years with breeding typically at 1 year|
|Field Codes||2-letter: Q. | 5-letter code: QUAIL | Euring: 3700|
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Interpretation and scientific publications about Quail from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The breeding range of Quail has shifted northward in Europe, including within the UK, over the last 30 years (Keller et al. 2020; Eaton et al. 2021). Whilst the reasons for this shift are still unclear, it is suspected that differences in numbers of Quail could be linked to weather conditions, and hence it is feasible that long-term changes in Quail distribution could be linked to climate change.
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