|Common Quail Coturnix coturnix|
During the breeding season they can produce one or sometimes two clutches of up to 12 eggs (usually 6 or 7) that as with other gamebirds are laid in a simple scrape in the ground. Incubation is 16-21 days and the young fledge at 19 days. As with other grassland gamebirds the basic diet is small seeds with added insects for protein, especially with growing chicks.
Quail have never been numerous in Britain, but there has been a modest recovery in the UK numbers in recent years. The chief problem with the population is that they, along with other characteristic farmland birds, are very vulnerable to changes in farming regimes and crops grown, and this can have a serious impact on numbers. In view of their winter quarters, droughts in the Sahel can also cause great reduction in overwinter survival and consequently numbers returning to breed even after good breeding years. The extremely wet weather we have had this year has probably been very bad for quail reproduction, and I expect numbers will be down for the next several years even if we get good breeding seasons. Globally however it is classed as Least Concern, and the population probably numbers in the tens of millions.
Scientifically speaking ‘quail’ is not really a meaningful term as there are two families of small gamebirds that are generically referred to as quail, the New World Quail in the family Odontophoridae, and the Old World Quail which are placed with the pheasants in the Phasianidae. New World quail are more diverse in their ecology, with habitats ranging from rainforest in South America to the grassland specialist Bobwhite Quail in North America. Old World Quail are grassland specialists, varying from dry grassland to rice paddy and bamboo dominated habitats.
|King or Chinese Painted Quail|
That completes all the wild gamebirds to be found in Britain. For the sake of completeness however, it would be unfair not to include two other species of galliform bird to be seen in the UK which will be extremely familiar to any readers, chickens and turkeys – especially as Christmas is coming up! I will cover these over the next couple of weeks.
(images from wikipedia)