With its characteristic call of "wet my lips", this species of quail is more often heard than seen. It is widespread in Europe and North Africa, and is categorised by the IUCN as "least concern". It should not be confused with the domesticated Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, native to Asia, which, although visually similar, has a very distinct call.
It is a small, round bird, essentially streaked brown with a white eyestripe, and, in the male, a white chin. As befits its migratory nature, it has long wings, unlike the typically short-winged gamebirds. It measures roughly 18.0–21.9 cm (7.1–8.62 in) and weighs 91–131 g (3.2–4.62 oz)
This is a terrestrial species, feeding on seeds and insects on the ground. It is notoriously difficult to see, keeping hidden in crops, and reluctant to fly, preferring to creep away instead. Even when flushed, it keeps low and soon drops back into cover. Often the only indication of its presence is the distinctive "wet-my-lips" repetitive song of the male. The call is uttered mostly in the mornings, evenings and sometimes at night. It is a strongly migratory bird, unlike most game birds.
This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Tetrao coturnix. The Eurasian race, C. c. coturnix, overwinters southwards in Africa's Sahel and India. The populations on Madeira and the Canary Islands belong to the nominate race. The African race, C. c. africana, described by Temminck and Schlegel, in 1849, is known as the African quail. It overwinters within Africa, some moving northwards from South Africa. The common quails of Madagascar and the Comoros belong to the same African race, although those found around Ethiopia make up a different subspecies, the Abyssinian quail, C. c. erlangeri (Zedlitz, 1912). The fairly numerous population of the Cape Verde islands, belong to a separate race, C. c. inopinata, (described by Hartert in 1917), while those on the Azores belong to race C. c. conturbans (Hartert, 1920)
Exodus 16:1-13 relates how the migrating Israelites asked God for meat and were provided with a massive flock of migrating quail. It is still heavily hunted as game on passage through the Mediterranean area. This species over recent years has seen an increase in its propagation in the United States and Europe. However, most of this increase is with hobbyists.
In 1537, Queen Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, pregnant with the future King Edward VI, developed an insatiable craving for quail, and courtiers and diplomats abroad were ordered to find sufficient supplies for the Queen.
If they have eaten certain plants, although which plants is still in debate, the meat from quail can be poisonous, with one in four who consume poisonous flesh becoming ill with coturnism, which is characterized by muscle soreness, and which may lead to kidney failure.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Coturnix coturnix". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
- Hume, A.O.; Marshall, C.H.T. (1880). Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon. Volume II. Calcutta: A.O. Hume and C.H.T. Marshall. p. 148.
- Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. (in Latin). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 161.
T. pedibus nudis, corpore griseo-maculate, supercilií albis, rectricibus margine lunulaque ferruginea.
- E. Krabbe, 2003[full citation needed]
- Korkmaz I, Kukul Güven FM, Eren SH, Dogan Z (October 2008). "Quail Consumption Can Be Harmful". J Emerg Med 41 (5): 499–502. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.03.045. PMID 18963719.
- Tsironi M, Andriopoulos P, Xamodraka E, et al. (August 2004). "The patient with rhabdomyolysis: have you considered quail poisoning?". CMAJ 171 (4): 325–6. doi:10.1503/cmaj.1031256. PMC 509041. PMID 15313988.
- Ouzounellis T (16 February 1970). "Some notes on quail poisoning". JAMA 211 (7): 1186–7. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170070056017. PMID 4904256.
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- Common quail species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds
- Common quail photos at Oiseaux
- Identification guide (PDF; 3.4 MB) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta & Gerd-Michael Heinze
- BirdLife species factsheet for Coturnix coturnix
- Coturnix coturnix on Avibase
- Common quail videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- European Quail photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
- Interactive range map of Coturnix coturnix at IUCN Red List maps
- Audio recordings of Common quail on Xeno-canto.