PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

Home ] Finches - Australian ] Finches - Non Aust. ] Parrots - Australian ] Parrots - Non Aust. ] About Us ] Advertise on web ] Amazon Parrots ] ASA ] Avian Health Issues ] Birds for sale ] Birds wanted ] Book References ] Cockatoos ] Conures ] Domestication ] Doves & Pigeons ] Feeding Birds ] Government Laws ] Housing Birds ] Insects & Livefoods ] Lorikeets & Lories ] Lovebirds ] Macaws ] Nests ] [ Quail ] Rosellas ] Scientific names ] Site map ] Softbills ] Weavers & Whydahs ]

Black breasted Button Quail
Bob White Quail
Brown Quail
Buff breasted Button Quail
Californian Quail
Chestnut backed Button Quail
European Quail
King Quail
Little Button Quail
Painted Button Quail
Red backed Button Quail
Red chested Button Quail
Stubble Quail

. Quail

Give us a try and list your birds for sale on the "Birds for Sale" web pages
To place an advertisement, click on "Birds for sale" web page in top navigation bar then
click on "Place a for sale Advert" web page. 
4 lines for 2 months is only $25

Topics on this page:

  • Breeding
  • Feeding / Diet
  • Housing Quail
  • Transporting Quail
  • General References
  • Specific References

Australia has 10 native species of Quail.  The King Quail, Brown Quail and the Stubble Quail are true quail, comprise 3 species and belong to the genus Coturnix.  The other 7 species of quail are referred to as Button quail and belong to the genus Turnix.  It is easy to distinguish between the two genus of Australian quail.  The Coturnix quail have four toes and three of the toes point forward and the other toe points backwards.  The Turnix quail have three toes on each foot and each toe points forward.

In the Turnix or Button quail the hen is larger than the cock bird.  The Button quail hens have a brighter coloured plumage than the males.  In the Coturnix quail the sexes are about equal in size but the males have a brighter coloured plumage than the hens. 

All species of quail build a nest on the ground.  Best results occur when the quail build the nest in the covered part of the aviary.  The incubation/hatching times as well as the time a young grows and reaches independence can vary due to varying weather conditions and temperatures.  In colder conditions the time taken to hatch and grow can take longer.  Equally during hotter months the times can be less than average.

The other quail as shown in the list opposite are introduced species of quail commonly held by aviculturalists. (Bob White, Californian and European quail)

Quail can be used to add visual balance to the aesthetics of an aviary.  Finches and suitable small parrots flying around and occupying the middle and upper part of the aviary and the quail taking up the lower level and floor real estate.


Quail differ in one huge respect when compared with almost all other species of birds.  Quail are generally divided into two groups as far as incubation are concerned.  Coturnix hens do the incubating of the eggs and the incubation.

Manipulating birds/pairs.  With the Turnix quail the males do the incubating.  This trait is taken advantage of by many aviculturalists.  With the Turnix quail the pair is allowed to establish the aviary as their own, then when the mating and nest building is completed the hen lays her clutch of eggs.  After the cock bird has shown he has definitely started to incubate the eggs, the hen is often removed so he will not be distracted from the duty of incubation and future rearing duties.  Sometimes the hen can entice the cock bird away from the incubation duties to start a new nest.  This will result in the loss of the first clutch of eggs.  If sufficient aviaries are available the hen can be placed into the new aviary with another cock bird to establish another nest of eggs.  When her second clutch has been laid and is being incubated by the second cock bird, the hen is once again removed from that aviary.  Care must be taken if this method is used as some hens or cock birds may not approve of the new mate and aggression can erupt.  If aggression happens it can result in severe injury to one or both birds, or in some cases the death of one of the birds.  A bad injury may prevent the use of that bird for the rest of the season, or in some cases the bird may not be of any further use as a breeder bird.  Care must be taken to ensure the Turnix quail hens are given adequate breaks between sessions of laying.  Better results are often gained if the hen is not allowed to lay more than three consecutive clutches and the hens should be given sufficient time to grow and reach full maturity before breeding is attempted.

Coturnix hens do the incubating of the eggs and the incubation.  As with the Turnix quail, some aviculturalists can "double use" some birds.  With Coturnix quail the opposite of the Turnix quail is practiced.  The cock bird is removed once the hen has definitely commenced incubation duties.  The same problems and benefits have to be observed as outlined in the above paragraph.

Many quail do not like nest inspections, so it is advisable to avoid inspecting the nest till after at least the first week of incubation.  This is particularly important for quail that make a substantial nest, often with a covered nest.  Many go to a lot of trouble to establish a private secure nest so it is best to respect their wishes.  Curiosity can result in the death of a clutch of eggs.  The nervous sitting bird may panic, fly high and fast and hit the roof and cause injury or death.

Coturnix Quail (True Quail) and the introduced quail.

Incubation lasts about 21 days.  The Brown, King and Stubble quail lay large clutches of eggs, often 2 or 3 times as many as the Button quail.  With the Turnix quail the males do the incubating.  The cock bird will mate with multiple hens if given the chance.

Many quail will lay throughout the year if conditions are suitable.  Unfortunately some species ability to raise their own young resemble that of chooks and lay lots of eggs but have lost the instinct to incubate and raise their own young.  Many commercial farms now breed some of the quail species as a meat bird for the domestic and restaurant trade.  These farms place all the eggs in large automatic incubators.  When the eggs hatch the young birds are placed in environmentally controlled brooders.  The baby birds have no contact with adult birds while they are growing up.  Many of these artificially raised birds are sold and purchased by aviculturalists and placed in their aviaries.  These birds without the clucky natural instincts can be disappointing to the beginner aviculturalist as well as those who do not have the equipment or time to artificially incubate and hand raise the young.  Those non clucky birds also tend to lay their eggs anywhere they like and generally not in the same spot each time.    

For the quail with normal / natural breeding instincts, the most productive months are generally Spring through Autumn.  The nest is made in a depressions in the floor.  The depression is lined with grasses, leaves and other soft material.  Some pairs will build a basic but adequate nest but others if given large quantities of good quality nesting materials can build a large nest and in some situations may have a dome shaped covered roof.  Nest inspection should be avoided for the first 7 - 10 days. 

When the babies hatch they are able to run around the aviary and the hen will call the young to her and she will drop food in front of the young and allow them to pick it up.

Turnix Quail

The breeding behaviour of the Turnix Quail differs from that of the Coturnix and the other introduced species.  The Turnix or Button quail cock birds do the incubation.  The hen bird will mate with multiple cock birds if given the chance.  The Button quail only lay about 4 white/whitish eggs per clutch.  The duration of incubation is only about 14 days.  This is much shorter than the Coturnix quail which has an incubation of about 21 days.  When the babies hatch they they are able to run around the aviary and the cock bird supplies food from his beak directly into the babies beak.  Generally the hen does not get involved in the feeding and raising of the young.  The young will start to feed themselves after about the first week.  The cock bird will offer the young food till they become independent at the about the 3rd or 4th week.

Nest inspection should be avoided for the first 7 - 10 days. 

For the quail with normal / natural breeding instincts, the most productive months are generally Spring through Autumn.  The nest is made in a depressions in the floor.  The depression is lined with grasses, leaves and other soft material.  Some pairs will build a basic but adequate nest but others if given large quantities of good quality nesting materials can build a large nest and in some situations may have a dome shaped covered roof.

If the situation arises that Button quail eggs have to be incubated and / or any baby quail hand raised, this presents a bigger problem than with the other types of quail.  The Coturnix quail instinctively pick up and eat food off the floor whereas the Button quail expect the food to be placed in their beak.  In a worst case scenario it may be necessary to hand feed the food into their beak till they are old enough to feed themselves.  For the quail with normal / natural breeding instincts, the most productive months are generally Spring through Autumn.  The nest is made in a depressions in the floor.  The depression is lined with grasses, leaves and other soft material.  Some pairs will build a basic but adequate nest but others if given large quantities of good quality nesting materials can build a large nest and in some situations may have a dome shaped covered roof.

Feeding / Diet

Food requirements of quail are fairly basic.  A good quality finch or small parrot mix, insects, some vegetables, seeding grasses and sometimes a pre-mix soft food.  In the wild quail, like most birds, need daily access to water and hence are found in close proximity to a reliable source of clean water.  Due to the encroachment of farms and housing to most birds natural range, many quail and other species of birds now make use of artificial water supplies like dams and water troughs.  Fresh clean water is essential for all aviary birds.

Quail scratch through their food just like chooks.  This habit can result in the scattering of the uneaten food onto wet areas or to areas under the finch or parrot perches or roosting areas.  One good method of minimizing the scattering of food it to attach  a plastic mesh similar to that used in climbing plant trellis ( square 50 mm openings ) just above the level of the seed.  This can be on a frame for easy refilling of the food utensil.  If young birds are not in the aviary the depth of the feed container can be deeper than when the young are running around.  A deeper container minimizes the amount that will be ejected out of the container by the adults.

They are usually housed in an aviary with one or more pairs of finches or smaller parrots.  They are most commonly found housed with finches and finch like birds.  They can sometimes be found in aviaries housing the smaller parrots.  Quail often have no choice but to eat the foods that are supplied to the other birds.  This is often a mix of basic finch seed mix along with some other select seeds and often a supply of live food such as mealworms.  Mealworms can be fed as the larval (worm) stage as well as the pupa and beetle stage.  The 3 mealworm stages have similar nutritional value but give the birds the impression they are being fed a variety of insects. Do not overlook the feeding of commercially raised cockroaches.  Cockroaches come in a wide selection of sizes from baby cockroaches a few millimetres long to the adults that are usually about 30 mm long.  Commercially raised cockroaches are used widely in the raising of many species of juvenile and adult reptiles.  Sprouted seeds may also be available along with some vegetables and fruits.  The pre-mix soft foods are often fed to some types of birds are often loved by some quail.  Those housed with small parrots will pick through the parrot mix and consume the seeds they like and other fruits, vegetables and live foods.

The cheaper species of quail are often put in an aviary to help "clean up" the floor.  They usually receive an adequate balance of foods and nutrients but with the rarer more expensive quail there should be more attention to the quail receiving a more planned  balanced diet.  Adequate supply of insect live food will be beneficial especially during breeding season.

The grits and calcium supplies provided for finches and parrots should be available to quail.

A clean fresh supply of water should always be available but care should be taken when the young are running around to ensure they do not drown in the water bowl.  A number of methods to minimize the drowning of baby birds include placing clean pebbles or small stones in the bowl, place a mesh screen in the water (preferably stainless steel) to minimize the depth, or replace the water bowl with a shallow dish.

If the quail are housed in an aviary with birds that are fed from an elevated platform, care must be taken to ensure the quail have sufficient of their preferred seeds/grains and not have to survive on the unwanted food of the other birds.  Quail eat the whole seed.  Most other types of birds remove the seed husk then eat the de-husked seed.  Sometimes it can appear there is adequate seed on the floor for the quail but closer inspection reveals it is mostly the empty seed husks.

The inclusion of a compost heap within the aviary to attract insects should be strongly avoided.  In the "old" days when commercially grown insects were either too expensive or unavailable are long gone.  Compost heaps are a source of many bacteria and fungal organisms that may be detrimental to all types of birds.  Crickets, mealworms and cockroaches are a much safer option and the price is now less than a few years ago.

The use of pelletised foods is increasing in all areas of bird feeding and many people have good success with the use of poultry pellet feeds as a supplement to the above discussed foods for quail.  The commercial farmers of quail such as European quail have developed and produce a nutritionally balanced pellet food suitable for aviary use for most types of quail.

Housing Quail

Allow extra space if one manipulates hen/cock bird as outlined in the above heading "Breeding - Manipulating birds/pairs".  Extra aviary space is needed for both the manipulation of the adults as well as the potential increased number of young.

There are a large range of opinions as to how many quail can be housed in an aviary.  Every one has differing styles and designs of aviaries.  Just like other types of birds, the temperament of each bird may vary widely.  Some placid and docile while another of the same species may tend to be aggressive.  For the sake of simplicity and in the interest of maximizing the chances of successful clutches being raised, it will be assumed that the housing for all quail is one pair per aviary.  It will be assumed that no other species of quail will be housed in that specific aviary.

Best results are generally achieved with one pair of quail per aviary.  An aviary of 2 metres long and about 1.5 metres wide with at least half the roof covered, should cater for most quail providing they have areas on the floor that allow adequate cover for them to retreat to and feel safe and secure.  The back wall and at least half the length of the side walls should be a solid material.  If quail are startled they tend to fly off the floor at a steep angle and often hit the roof at a solid speed.  This can cause severe head injuries or at worst the death of the quail.  Wing feather clipping can minimize this potential problem.  Wing feather clipping also minimizes the risk of the quail flying into or onto the finch nesting sites and disturbing the nesting or roosting finches and/or small parrots.

Quail are usually compatible with finches, finch like birds such as softbills, small docile parrots, doves and pigeons.  Problems can occur with finches etc. that spend a lot of time at floor level or use the floor space as their courtship, or mating site.

Quail are usually housed in an aviary with one or more pairs of finches.  They are most commonly found housed with finches and finch like birds, but they can sometimes be found in aviaries housing the smaller docile parrots such as some of the Neophemas.  If housed with large birds, the young and sometimes the adult quail, may be killed or eaten especially when the larger birds approach breeding season.  They can make a nice snack for some parrots and their young.

This usually means the quail have to accept whatever aviary design the other finches or parrots need.  Quail adapt well and if given a few basic needs will thrive and successfully multiply.  A large planted finch aviary with a dry earthen floor and some tall grasses is ideal.  If quail are housed with compatible small parrots, the aviary is usually devoid of plants, shrubs, ground cover plants and grasses.  This does not rule out the successful breeding of quail in these aviaries.  It just means the floor landscaping of the parrot aviary has to be modified to include a few items to allow the quail to feel relaxed and safe.  Place a few inverted wooden crates that have a few lower panels removed, at the back of the aviary.  Inverted polystyrene boxes with part of the part of both opposite walls removed can make a cheap alternative to wooden crates.  A quick cover of a earth coloured paint will blend the box in better.  The Styrofoam boxes do not have any cracks or gaps in the construction so are less likely to harbour mites.  Placing some dry branches, pieces of large diameter pipe, horizontal hollow log/s or other suitable material on the aviary floor at the front and/or along the side wall will help the quail feel safe and secure and maximize the chances of successful breeding in a parrot aviary.  Fake rocks as used in landscaping and by reptile breeders can allow for creative aviary landscaping.  The fake rocks are light and can easily be moved / removed for cleaning or relocating to another aviary and are virtually indestructible.  The fake rocks come in a large variety of heights and sizes.  These items can imitate nature and allow quail to nest behind or beside these objects and feel safe and secure.  The crates and other furniture will allow the quail to hide and build a nest without the constant unwanted attention of the other aviary occupants.  The aviary furniture and hiding places will allow them safe refuge when the owner enters the aviary for feeding, watering and cleaning duties.

Potted plants and trays of growing grasses (including small bamboos) can be placed in an aviary that has a concrete floor.  These can be removed and refreshed as required with minimal disturbance.  Do not remove or replace these items if the quail have built a nest beside or close to these items.  Wait at least till the eggs have hatched.

At the end of each breeding season the dead or fake branches, grasses, and foliage, can be removed and either thrown away or cleaned thoroughly and reused.  Timber furnishings, logs, potted plants, fake rocks should be returned to the pair that used these furnishings that breeding season.  Familiarity of surroundings may keep them in a more placid temperament.  Removal of the old leaf litter or the layer of sand will minimize the carry over of mites, bacteria and fungal contaminants.  Fresh leaf litter will generally make the aviary better looking and smell fresh.

Most parrot aviaries now have a concrete floor but if a cover of clean dry sand is placed over the concrete, it will provide a suitable surface for the quail.  A layer of sand over a concrete floor will benefit parrots as well.  A portion of the aviary floor can have clean dry leaves and grasses added to it to more resemble a forest floor.  Fresh or dry eucalypt leaves can add a fresh smell to the aviary.  Quail in an aviary with a dry floor with a sufficient depth of sand, dirt or similar material will dust bathe.

Most baby quail are very small and very mobile so the aviary should have a 300 mm high barrier around the entire aviary (including the door) of either mouse proof wire mesh (7 mm) or a solid smooth material such as flat galvanized sheet steel.  Check that the gaps around and under door are not wide enough to allow any babies to escape.  Do not forget to put the barrier between individual side by side flights to prevent the babies escaping into other flights that may house birds that may kill the baby birds or leave the baby quail lost and unable to find their way back to their parents. Make sure there are no gaps under the lower edge.  The babies of many species will run through the usual 13 mm wire.

If the aviary is large or there is a chance of the baby quail getting "lost" in the aviary, it may be beneficial to place a solid barrier  around an area to restrict how far the babies can roam.  It must not restrict the adult birds, just the babies.  This is often used to good effect in bad weather conditions to keep the babies restricted to the warmest, driest, safest areas.  If this is done, do not forget to supply the baby quail area with an adequate safe supply of water and food.

If a clutch hatches in cold weather conditions the provision of supplementary warmth/heating may increase the survival chances.  There is a large variety of heating appliances designed and approved for the poultry industry that can be used in a dry aviary situation.  Get appropriate advice to select the best one for an outdoor aviary and have it installed by an approved installer.  Heated rocks as used by reptile breeders may help.

During wet or winter conditions the finches and any small parrots can escape to the higher dryer parts of the aviary and not have to return to the floor till they need a feed or drink.  Quail do not have this option so when designing the aviary for the rarer Button quail pay particular attention to their need for a substantial part of the aviary to remain dry and hopefully with minimal draughts.

As adult quail and the baby quail are almost always running around on the floor it is essential to check at ground level when entering or leaving an aviary.  It is easy to miss seeing quail at ground level when entering or leaving an aviary especially when carrying foods, cleaning equipment or when carrying bulky items.  The provision of a safety double door or a walkway will minimize the escape of these active birds.

Always have an aviary ready to house the young quail when they become independent from their parents or if the parent/s show aggression to the young birds.

Quail that are noisy, especially in the morning, should be housed in an aviary most distant away from neighbours.

Suspended cages and suspended aviaries are generally unsuitable for quail.

Australian quail generally do not use a perch either during the day or to roost on during the night.  Two of the introduced quail, the Californian and the Bobwhite will use a perch at night to roost.

Transporting Quail

Transporting quail can be more of a problem than most other types of birds.  Quail take off vertically when frightened and can damage themselves if they hit the roof of the carry cage/box.  To minimize the risk of injury, the height of the carry cage can be reduced and a 1 cm thick sponge/foam rubber roof lining can be glued on (to the inside of the roof).  The carry cage does not have to be much higher than the height of the bird when it is standing.  The ceiling padded carry cage can be suitable for other flighty birds such as some of the dove species.

Top of - Quail - Page

General References: Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

Keeping Quail - A Guide to Domestic and Commercial Management.  Author Katie Thear

"A Guide To Pigeons, Doves & Quail their management, care & breeding".  Publisher Australian Birdkeeper Publications.  Author Danny Brown B.Sc. (Hons).  Cost is about $40. Published 1995.

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 8 Aug 2006 Page 157-159 (Life with birds - J. McGrath).

  • A/A Vol 60 No. 4 Apr 2006 Page 69-71 (Advantages & disadvantages of Bird keeping in hot climates)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 246-247 (Maintain those plants)
  • A/A Vol  59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 233-235 (The case for feeding Green foods - by Dr D. Madill).
  • A/A Vol 58 No. 9 Sept 2004 Page 210-211 (Book review-Atlas of Aust. birds).
  • A/A Vol 54 No.1 Jan 2000 Page 5-8 (Button quail)
  • A/A Vol 53 No. 3 Mar 1999 Page 54-55
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 11 Nov 1997 Page 243-250 (S. Gelis - Nutrition)
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 11 Nov 1997 Page 254-259 (Victorian population 93-96)
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 10 Oct 1997 Page 220-224
  • A/A Vol 50 No.11 Nov 1996 Page 251-253 (Kurrichane button quail)
  • A/A Vol 50 No. 8 Aug 1996 Page 186-189 (Status of Aust. quail & softbills in Vic. aviaries, Sept 1995)
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 4 Apr 1994 Page 83-88 (Studbooks)
  • A/A Vol 47 No. 8 Aug 1993 Page 181-185
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 8 Aug 1992 Page 181-187 (Bird feeding survey)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 5 May 1992 Page 117-122 (Back to basics)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 3 Mar 1992 Page 295 (Plains wanderer).  
  • A/A Vol 45 No. 11 Nov 1991 Page 261-266 (Native plants- Part 2)
  • A/A Vol 31 No. 5 May 1977 Page 66-71
  • A/A Vol 26 No. 2 Feb 1972 Page 25-29
  • A/A Vol 26 No. 2 Feb 1972 Page 29-31
  • A/A Vol 16 No. 4 Apr 1962 Page 53-54, 56 (Introduction to quail).
  • A/A Vol 14 No 7 Jul 1960 Page 94 (Harlequin quail).
  • A/A Vol  6 No 10 Oct 1952 Page 119 (Harlequin quail).
  • A/A Vol  2 No 3 Mar 1948 Page 24-25 (Birds of yesteryear,  Still valid in 2005).
  • A/A Vol  1  No 3 Mar 1947 Page - Painted quail.
  • The Bulletin No 26, Dec 1944 Page 5 - 6 (Breeding Harlequin Quail).
  • The Bulletin No 24, Oct 1944 Page 2 - 3 (Button Quail).
  • The Bulletin No 12, Sept 1943 Page 4 - 5 (News from the Interior of Aust.).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 1. Feb-Mar 2000 Page 39-40
  • ABK Vol  6 Issue 8. Apr-May 1993 Page 373-377 (Plantscaping)
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1990 Page 155-159 (Plantscaping)
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1990 Page 166-168 (Aviary design)
  • ABK Vol  1 Issue 1. 1987 Page 13-14 (Mixed Collections)

Top of - Quail - Page

BirdCare.com.au is one of the world's largest and most informative avian or bird web sites.  Copyright  BirdCare.com.au 2002 - 2008 inc.  All rights reserved.  Disclaimer:  This web site has been compiled from material provided from a large number of sources.  Personal experience and personal contacts have been used.  Results vary according to factors such as environmental factors, aviary design and the physical and genetic backgrounds of all living birds/animals.  Every endeavour has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material but no responsibility is accepted by BirdCare.com.au  for the accuracy of the material on this web site. The intent of this web site is to provide a "care sheet"  format and provide general material only.  Readers should rely upon their own enquiries in making any decisions relating to their own interests.