21 Mar 2019
Despite its attempts to live a secretive life, the migration route of the endearingly rotund Common Quail leaves it subject to illegal trapping. Action is needed - with your help we can halt their decline and protect many other bird species at the same time.
By Cressida Stevens
The Common Quail is one of seven flagship birds in our Flight for Survival campaign to raise awareness of the scope and scale of the illegal killing of migratory birds.
The small, seemingly shy Common Quail Coturnix coturnix prefers to stay hidden amongst the rough grasses of farmland as it forages with its long, sharp claws for insects and seeds. Birdwatchers have much better chances of hearing their characteristic call than seeing them. Though a frustration to birdwatchers, their secretive behaviour is for their own good, since unfortunately when they do encounter humans it is often at their peril.
With streaked and barred brown feathers and a prominent white eye-stripe, they are distinctive in appearance, but their small and stocky build gives no allusion to the impressive flying feats this species is capable of. These birds habitually avoid flying: if disturbed, they prefer to either run away or ‘freeze’, hoping to go unnoticed. However, this changes in a spectacular fashion when, using their disproportionately long and powerful wings, they take to the skies to migrate between their breeding grounds in northern Europe and wintering grounds in the Sahel belt of sub-Saharan Africa. This makes them the only species of their order (which includes pheasants, partridges and grouse to name a few) which migrate.