Varieties and Breeds of Quail

Quails are known for their decorative coloring, with speckles, caps and topknots.
Quails are known for their decorative coloring, with speckles, caps and topknots. (Image: Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Numerous species and subspecies of quail, which are hunted for game and kept by hobbyists, inhabit the United States. These small plump birds rarely take flight. With relatively short wings and large bodies, quail fly close to the ground in short bursts when startled. They feed, nest and roost on the ground.Quail chicks are precocial, meaning they are born with open eyes, downy bodies and have the ability to walk, run and feed themselves within hours of hatching.

Bobwhite Quail

The Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is a quail known for its distinctive call, a low whistle that sounds like the two syllables of "bob-white." They are found in the eastern United States and many of the Midwestern and Southwestern states, as well as portions of the Northwest. The Bobwhite prefers open brushlands, farmland and forest edges where it is frequently hunted as a game bird. It eats a diet of seeds, vegetation and small insects and worms. Bobwhite quail are easy to raise in captivity and are sometimes bred and released into game lands to increase hunting prospects. Varieties of Bobwhite quail include Tennessee Red, Tuxedo, Blond, White and Silver.

The Bobwhite quail roosts on the ground in coveys of 12 to 20 birds.
The Bobwhite quail roosts on the ground in coveys of 12 to 20 birds. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Button Quail

Button quail (Excalfactoria chinensis) are native to China but are popular with hobbyists in nearly every country of the world. As its name implies, the Button quail is very small, with males approximately 4 1/2 inches long and females 5 inches. Newly hatched Button quail are approximately the size of bumblebees and are very active. They are often kept in dry fish aquariums, as they require very little space. In the wild, Button quail inhabit open brushy ground, grasslands and marshes. Until 1987, only two varieties existed in the United States: Normal Wild Button quail and Silver Button quail. A mutation named Red-Breasted Button quail was discovered in that year. Since that time, numerous other varieties have been imported, including the White, Pink-Eyed Dilute, Blue Face, Cinnamon and Golden Pearl.

Gambrel Quail

Well known for its profile with a topknot, Gambrel's quail (Callipepla gamelii), is named for the naturalist William Gambrel. The Gambrel quail inhabits the deserts of the Southwest. This quail is a ground feeder that forms mating pairs in the springtime. Females do the work of brooding the 10 to15 eggs, which takes approximately 21 to 24 days. The Gambrel quail is very active, so it requires a large run when kept in captivity.

Valley Quail

The Valley quail (Callipepla californica) is the state bird of California. The male of the species is recognized by the black plume on its head, its black bib and speckled wings. The Valley quail inhabits semi-arid regions, including farmlands, open woodlands, chaparral and stream valleys. Females of the same species are duller in coloring and have a smaller, brown plume topknot. The Valley quail calls with 14 distinct sounds, which vary for courtship, feeding and warning. The most common Valley quail call is a three-syllable "chi-ca-go."

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