quail(redirected from common quails)
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(Coturnix coturnix), a bird of the family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes. The quail is 16–20 cm long and weighs 80–145 g. The brown back has light and dark spots and stripes; the jugulum is reddish and, in the female, has mottled markings. The quail is distributed in Europe, Africa, and Asia; in the USSR it is found eastward to Lake Baikal. It inhabits fields, plains, and mountains. The bird winters in Africa and southwestern Asia. The nests are built on the ground. A clutch contains nine to 15 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 15 to 17 days. Quail feed primarily on vegetable substances, including seeds, buds, and young sprouts; less commonly they eat insects. It has been found that inorganic fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture have poisoned quail, resulting in a rapid decline in their number. The birds formerly were hunted during autumn migrations in the Crimea and the Caucasus. In Middle Asia, quail are kept in cages as “fighting birds” and songbirds. They have a loud, steady call.
A closely related species, C. japonicus, is found in the USSR east of Lake Baikal. It is bred domestically and on large farms for meat and eggs. Quail raising as a branch of the poultry industry originated in the 1950’s in Japan, where 700,000 to 800,000 birds for slaughter and several million eggs are now produced annually. As a result of selective breeding, strains have been developed for high egg production and have been exported to numerous countries. In the USSR, quail raising is conducted on specialized farms and at a number of kolkhozes and sovkhozes. The quail are kept in cages and fed dry rations, and the eggs are incubated. Hybrid breeds begin to lay eggs at age 35 to 40 days, producing 250 to 300 eggs annually. The eggs weigh 8–14 g; carcasses weigh 100–120 g.