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Coturnix coturnix (Common quail)

Afrikaanse kwartel [Afrikaans]; Isagwityi [Xhosa]; isiGwaca (generic term for quail) [Zulu]; Erurumbe (generic term for quail) [Kwangali]; Koekoe, Sekoenqe [South Sotho]; Sekhwiri [North Sotho]; Huta (generic name for quail) [Shona]; Khevezi, Mavolwane [Tsonga]; Tshosabannę (generic term for quail) [Tswana]; Kwartel [Dutch]; Caille des blés [French]; Wachtel [German]; Codorniz-comum [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Galliformes > Family: Phasianidae

Coturnix coturnix (Common quail)

Common quail female. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Coturnix coturnix (Common quail) Coturnix coturnix (Common quail)

Common quail male (left) and female (right), near Cedara, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Coturnix_coturnix


Male has a black to russet coloured throat compared with the white throat of Harlequin quail and the female Blue quail, and the black-and-white patterned throat of the male Blue quail. Female has pale underparts with a whitish-coloured belly, compared with the more uniform and darker chestnut-coloured breast and belly of the female Harlequin quail.  The longitudinally streaked underparts of the female distinguish it from the barred underparts of female Blue quail. Immature Common and Harlequin quail are evidently difficult to distinguish and I will not try to do so here without supporting images.   

Distribution and habitat

A broad distribution over Eurasia, India, Atlantic islands, Africa and Madagascar. Widely distributed in Africa in most regions where there is grass, or fields and crops.  Movements are influenced by rainfall patterns.

Coturnix coturnix (Common quail)

Distribution of Common quail in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by Clem Hagner, Plettenberg Bay, [© Transvaal Museum]



It mainly forages in the late afternoon and early evening, scraping the ground with its feet in search of  food. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Nest is made by the female and is a scrape in the ground, lined with grass and rootlets and hidden away in dense vegetation. 
  • Breeding season (laying dates): virtually any time of year, usually after or during good rains.
  • Female lays 2-14 eggs, one per day, after which she incubates them for 17-20 days before they hatch.
  • Chicks leave nest usually within a day of hatching and are cared for and fed by the female for the first four days or so, after which they feed independently. After 11 days they can start to fly, after 19-21 days they have developed full flight, and after 30 days they are full grown. The male, female and chicks stay as a family for 30-50 days altogether. 


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. 3rd edition. Struik, Cape Town.

  Text by Hamish Robertson