Are Quails Migratory Birds? (Explained)

by Kloee Ngozi
Updated on

Yes, quails are generally migratory birds, although there are some quails that do not migrate. What drives quails to migrate is essentially their gene, so there are quails that are not genetically predisposed to migrating; however, a great number of quails have the migratory gene.

Quails are small birds that tend to nest in the ground; they belong to the Phasianidae family of pheasant birds.

They mainly breed in the western part of the Palearctic, but in winter, they migrate to the southern part of India and to Africa.

Quails are game birds, but unlike the majority of game birds, they migrate.

Do quails migrate?

Are Quails Migratory Birds

Generally, You could say that quails migrate, however not all of them do; this is because the likelihood for quails to migrate is greatly dependent on their genetic makeup.

Even amongst the quails that are genetically predisposed to migrating, not all of them migrate far.

Some quails don’t migrate so far, and others do not migrate at all. But there are some quails that migrate very far.

The quails that do not migrate at all are referred to as sedentary birds/quails.

So to answer your question more aptly, quails do migrate; however, you cannot say that all quails migrate.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can you feed quails corn

Why do quails migrate?

There is rarely ever a singular reason for anything done in nature, so it would not be correct to say that there is a singular reason that quails migrate.

Although, the main reason that quails migrate is tied to their genes.

In this section of this piece, we are going to explore some reasons why quail migrates; they include:

1. Genetics

As already canvassed above, genetics is the primary reason that quails that migrate, migrate.

It is embedded in their genes to migrate; it has been passed down for thousands of years.

This primary drive to migrate is fueled by their genetic predisposition.

So it is virtually impossible for you to extricate this migratory drive from quails, except you corrupt their gene pool.

In recent times call mom with the attempts of several bird conservative moves to repopulate areas of the world that had quails but presently do not due to several reasons.

There has been some kind of mixture of different species of quails. This has led to the increase in sedentary quails.

This is because sedentary quails tend to live longer and better than migratory quails, so India attempts to repopulate areas that naturally had quails but did not have anymore; the sedentary gene in sedentary quails has been introduced to migratory quails.

This invariably has led to more quails becoming sedentary.

Still, most quails migrate.

2. Survival

Ordinarily, in the state of nature, quails are not cold hardy.

This is why they usually migrate to warmer climates during winter Because this helps ensure their survival.

Winter can decimate the population of quails in an area, and this is not good for the collective and individual survival of quails.

Just imagine that quails did not migrate, Imagine they stayed during winter.

After winter, the population could reduce to less than 1%.

This is no exaggeration because winter comes with a lot of hazards to quails, hazards like frost, lack of food, and their need for warmth increases their need for food.

The snow would cover the ground and prevent them from finding food, and the snow could lead to frostbite, weaken them further and make them more susceptible to being eaten by prey.

It is sometimes posited that sedentary quails have more chances of survival than quails that migrate over thousands of miles.

This is true to some point depending on the area, but from time immemorial, the survival of quails has greatly been dependent on their ability to migrate.

Also check out this article on keeping ducks and quails together

3. Breeding

One of the reasons that quails migrate is to breed. Migratory quails tend to breed in the  Palearctic, but in winter, they migrate to the southern part of India and to Africa.

This has been the course of their most quails from time immemorial.

4. Feeding

Winter comes with a lot of hazards for quails, one of which is the lack of food.

Quails are mostly ground-nesting birds, and they pick most of the food that sustains them from the ground.

When winter comes, the snow covers the ground and prevents them from picking food like bugs, seeds, and grains from the ground; this is not particularly ideal for the survival of quails.

This necessitates migration to warmer climates that finding food would be easier for quails.

Apart from the ground being covered with snow, most food would be cold or frozen.

How far do quail migrate?

Quails migrate over thousands of miles.

From Europe to Africa and India. Among the birds in the pheasant family, quails have powerful and long wings, probably the most powerful in that family of pheasant birds.

This equips them to make their great migratory journey from Europe to Africa with some flying through the Mediterranean.

Can you keep quail outside in winter?

Do quails are considered Hardy birds, it would be unwise to keep them outside in winter; the snow and cold could do a lot of damage to them.

Although the arrival of winter does not necessarily portend death for quails, it is still advised that you find warm shelter for them.

Quails can live in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is remarkable for birds of that size; this does not mean you should keep quail outside in winter.

To survive in cold weather, they need to use up 25% more energy to regulate their temperature; if you can prevent exposure to such conditions, you should.

Even though quails can endure cold, exposure to rain, snow, and wind can kill them; this reason is enough for you to provide winter cover and bedding for them.

Chicks are highly susceptible to cold as they have not developed the capacity to regulate the temperature of their bodies.

They don’t develop this until they have lived for up to 3 weeks.

In the wild, winter storms and cold, wet springs kill most quails that are exposed, especially chicks.

Are quail flightless?

Quail are not flightless; they have long and powerful wings that can help them fly and glide for thousands of miles.

They would not be migratory birds without this powerful capacity to fly.

They are migratory birds that could fly from Europe to Africa and then back.

Some mountain quails migrate by walking from high altitudes of the mountain to lower altitudes, but this does not mean they cannot fly.

Though It is an easy misconception that quails are flightless, however, this is not true.

Do Coturnix quails migrate?

Coturnix quails are common in Europe; they are migratory birds too.

They usually breed in Europe and spend winters in sub-Saharan Africa. They are game birds, too, and tend to nest on the ground.

Can quails fly?

Quails are very strong flyers, and their wings are long and powerful; they can carry them for thousands of miles.

People usually associate chickens and quails, so they assume that since chickens cannot fly, quails too cannot fly. 

This could not be further from the truth, and quails are such strong flyers that they are migratory.

They migrate mainly by flying great distances like the UK to Africa.

When going long distances, quails prefer to glide more than fly. They are shy birds and tend to fly when it is convenient.

They can fly as fast as forty miles per hour. They don’t fancy flying great distances at a time.


With this article, we hope that you would know more about the nature of quails when it comes to flying

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About the author

Kloee Ngozi

Kloee is a backyard farmer and avid gardener who enjoys tending to her garden and plants. She is so engrossed with her plants that she has pet names for all of them. She likes to relax with a bottle of wine and read a book.


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