The New International Encyclopædia/Quail

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QUAIL (OF. quaille, Fr. caille, from ML. quaquila, from MDutch quakele, quackel, quail, from quacken, Dutch kwaken, to quack; onomatopoetic in origin). Originally and strictly, a small game bird of the Old World of the genus Coturnix, nearly allied to partridges, but having a more slender bill, a shorter tail, longer wings, no spur, and no red space above the eye. Quails never perch on trees, but always alight on the ground and far excel partridges in their power of flight. They are among the smallest of gallinaceous birds. The common quail (Coturnix coturnix, or communis) is found in most parts of the Old World, and in the Mediterranean region, where it is most familiar, is migratory. Species of quail are found in different parts of Asia, although no other is so abundant as the common quail, and none migrates as it does. The rain quail (Coturnix Coromandelica) is numerous in India. The Chinese quail (Coturnix excalphatoria), only about four inches long, is abundant in China, and is there kept for fighting, the males, being very pugnacious. It is also said to be used for another singular purpose—the warming of the hands of its owner.

In America the word quail is used for all those small birds which have no feathers on the tarsus. In the United States only one species occurs east of the Mississippi, the well-known bob-white (‘partridge’ of the Southern States, ‘quail’ of the North), Colinus Virginianus, which occurs as far north as southern Maine and Minnesota. It is about 10 inches long. The upper parts are reddish-brown variegated with black, buff, and gray; the forehead and band on breast, black; the cheeks, throat, breast, and belly white, the latter barred with black; the sides chestnut, marked with black and white. The female has the forehead, cheeks, and throat buff. Bob-white is one of our most popular game birds and is in great demand for the table. It feeds on seeds, berries, and other vegetable matter. The nest is on the ground, and the eggs, 10 to 18 in number, are pure white. Its loud clear notes, imitated in its name, are the three-syllabled ‘ah bob-white,’ accented sharply on the last; but the first is not always plainly heard. It is one of the most characteristic and pleasing sounds of American rural scenes, for the bird is everywhere numerous, under protective laws. In the Western and Southwestern States are found several relatives (Odontophorinæ), five of which differ markedly from Colinus, not only in their coloration, but in the presence of a noticeable crest. In the California quail (Lophortyx Californica) and Gambel's quail (Lophortyx Gambeli) the crest consists of six feathers, erect and recurved; in the mountain or painted quail (Oreortyx pictus) the crest is made of two long, drooping feathers; in the blue quail (Callipepla squamata) the crest is composed of numerous rather short, soft feathers, and the same is true of the remarkable Massena ‘fool’ quail of Arizona (Cartonyx Montezumæ) . All of these birds are exceptionally handsome, the prevailing tints being slaty-blue, olive-brown, chestnut or tawny, black and white. The head, especially in the male, is noticeably marked with black or brown and white. The mountain quail is the largest (a foot long), while the Massena quail is the smallest (only nine inches long). The eggs of Lophortyx and Callipepla are remarkable for being speckled. Consult authorities cited under Partridge; and see Plate of Partridges, etc. See Colored Plate of Game Birds, accompanying article Grouse; and of Eggs of Game and Water Birds.