Coturnix coturnix (Linnaeus, 1758) Q. QUAIL 3700
Family: Galliformes > Phasianidae

Quail, Graham Catley

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

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


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


Quails are summer visitor, mostly arriving from late May onwards. After July probably under-recorded once males stop singing.

Weekly occurence of Quail from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


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.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Quail ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


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


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Gearra-gart
Welsh: Sofliar
Catalan: guatlla comuna
Czech: krepelka polní
Danish: Vagtel
Dutch: Kwartel
Estonian: põldvutt
Finnish: viiriäinen
French: Caille des blés
German: Wachtel
Hungarian: fürj
Icelandic: Kornhæna
Irish: Gearg
Italian: Quaglia
Latvian: paipala
Lithuanian: paprastoji putpele
Norwegian: Vaktel
Polish: przepiórka (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: codorniz
Slovak: prepelica polná
Slovenian: prepelica
Spanish: Codorniz común
Swedish: vaktel


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.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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