King Quail

Did you know?

King Quail were introduced a number of times in Victoria and may have been released in South Australia. However there appear to be none living now in South Australia. They were first discovered in the Kimberleys area in 1974.

King Quail have quite a variety of calls. While fairly silent outside the breeding season, one of the best indicators of its presence is a high-pitched three-note call, which has a low volume and is uttered monotonously near sun set. It may be heard all d
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
November-July in northern Australia; September-March in south.
Clutch Size: 
18 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
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What does it look like?

The King Quail is a small dark quail, mostly brown in colour. The adult male has a distinctive appearance with a blue-grey forehead and face, and a black and white pattern on its chin and throat. It has faint white streaks and black bars on the top of its head and on its wings. The sides of its face, its chest and its sides are slate-blue. It has a chestnut belly and yellow legs. The female is like a minature Brown Quail, Coturnix ypsilophora, and is dark brown and faintly streaked. It has a white throat and is the only small quail with a barred underside. It is also known as Blue-breasted, Chestnut-bellied, Dwarf, Least, Swamp, Chinese, or Chinese Painted Quail.

Similar species: 

The Red-backed Button-quail, Turnix maculosus, and the Brown Quail live in similar habitats to the King Quail and are dark on top and so the three could be confused. However , in flight, the King Quail has narrower more pointed wings and is uniformly dark on its upperparts, with no pale panel on its underwing. Adult Brown Quail are much larger than King Quail. Adult female and juvenile King Quail on the ground could be confused with Stubble Quail, Coturnix pectoralis, which are larger and are paler grey-brown on their upperparts with bolder creamy streaking. The Stubble Quail also has a paler head and is a paler creamy-buff underneath, with heavy dark streaking on its breast and sides.

Where does it live?

King Quail occur in Asia from India eastward to south-east China, South East Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia. They are patchily distributed within north and east Australia. Most southern records, especially near major towns and cities, are probably escaped birds. In most cases it is found towards the coasts. In New South Wales it is mainly found from the Sydney region northwards.


King Quail are found in  tropical and temperate shrublands and grasslands, towards coastal areas. They occur in very dense ground vegetation, such as  grass, shrubs, ferns, herbs, at damp or swampy sites.

Seasonal movements: 

King Quail appear to stay in much the same area all year round.

What does it do?

King Quail mainly eat grass seeds and green leaf blades but also eat adult and larval insects. They mostly feed during the day but also on moonlit nights. They forage on the ground in grasslands.


King Quail usually nest in grasslands and swampy locations. The male selects the site. The nest is a depression lined with dry grass, casurina needles or dry sedge. There may be a hood over the nest. The nest is built by the female, but the male may help collect material. Eggs are only incubated by the female, but the male may sit beside her in the evenings. Male and female both feed and guard the chicks

Living with us

King Quail have become rare in southern New South Wales and Victoria mainly because their  habitats have been modified by drainage or burning. Their eggs and chicks are damaged by harvesting machinery.

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