Common quail

Common quail ©Margaret Holland


Scientific name: Coturnix coturnix
This tiny gamebird is rarely seen, but its distinctive "wet my lips" call can be heard ringing out over areas of farmland on summer evenings.

Species information


Length: 17cm
Wingspan: 34cm
Weight: 100g

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

April to October


The quail is a migratory species of gamebird, travelling as far south as Africa for the winter, then returning to the UK to breed in late spring. Farmland birds, they spend most of their time on the floor, hidden in grass or cereal fields.

How to identify

A small, rather round bird, patterned with fine dark and gold markings over a brown background. Males can be recognised by their black throat. They are most likely to be seen in flight, where they show very long and pointed wings.


Quail can appear throughout the UK, but breeding birds are most common in England and southern Scotland. They are very rare in Northern Ireland.

Did you know?

Quail are very reluctant to fly, preferring to escape by running away through the thick vegetation they live in. Despite this, they manage to fly as far as Africa and back each year.