Do Quails Have Tongues? (Answered)

by Kloee Ngozi
Updated on

Do Quails Have Tongues?

Quails are game birds which are becoming popular with poultry keepers and getting domesticated.

Quails have tongues as have been discovered by various studies and this has helped in determining their food intake patterns.

A quails tongue is divided into the apex, body and root as reported by most studies. The tongue also contains papillae which aid in swallowing of food.

The tongue is an important body part of any animal which performs various actions and this article will explain whether quails have tongues, the structure of their tongues, if they can taste spicy food and what they use their tongues for among other things. 

Do Quails Have Tongues?

Do Quails Have Tongues

Yes quails have tongues like most other birds. The tongues of quails help to distinguish their eating habits from other birds, even closely related species like partridges and francolins. 

Different studies have discovered that the shape of a bird’s tongue can help in determining the method of food intake i.e the way they eat their food, the type of food they eat and the habitat they live in.

Quails are omnivores and can eat both plant based foods and animal based food. They eat seeds, grasses, insects and worms among other things. 

These foods eaten by the quail is a function of the type of tongue they possess.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on the reason why quails lose their feather

What Do Quails Use Their Tongues For?

Quail tongues are useful in helping them move and swallow food from their mouth.

Quail do not eat the way we do, and even though there are similarities between a human tongue and quail tongue, there are quite a number of differences too.

Quail tongues have backward facing barbs which helps them move food from the back of their mouth onwards to their gullet.

Quail tongues also contain papillae which are barb-like structures which help them filter out food particles and hook insects in their mouth.

Quails also use their tongues to regulate their body temperature as they are sometimes seen with their mouths open during the day.

This act helps to moisten the tongue and cools blood supply in the mouth and face. Studies are still being carried out on how quails use their tongues.

What Does A Quail’s Tongue Look Like?

According to Parchami et al’s 2010 study, the tongue of an adult common quail is triangular in shape. A median groove can be detected on the dorsal surface of the tongue’s apex and body. 

The quail’s tongues also contain papillae. These papillae are large conical papillae uniformly forming the shape of the letter V and converging at the middle line in the marginal zone between the root and the body of the tongue.

A second row of papillae was also discovered behind the first. The average length of the tongue was about 1.2 cm in length with the body being 1cm and the root being 2mm.

The anterior part of the tongue was observed to be smooth while the posterior towards the dorsal area was grooved with protrusions observed. 

Other studies also discovered a similarity between the tongues of quails and that of chickens.

Do Quails Have Taste Buds?

Quails like most birds have taste buds. This might come as a surprise as you might not exactly have thought about birds tongues and taste buds.

In research, right up to the 1900’s humans did not know taste buds existed in birds till they were initially discovered.

Humans have about 10,000 taste buds which can even be larger depending on the size of the mouth. 

Quails and other birds have significantly fewer taste buds than humans with quails having less than 50 taste buds on their tongues. 

Also quail taste buds are placed quite differently from those of humans. While our taste buds are found on the tongue, those of birds are primarily found at the base of the tongue and on the floor and roof of the mouth.

This difference in taste bud placement and quails poor olfactory senses affects the way they are able to taste food.

They can however taste and differentiate  between sweet, bitter, salty and sugar concentrations. 

Quails have a preference for sucrose solutions and will accept some tastes which are bitter to humans.

For example when given sucro octaceetate, quails took it with  indifference but rejected quinine.

Quails and other birds also share an aversion for salt. If it is at a point where it is psychologically saline in food they are able to accept it but once the concentration becomes greater they reject it outrightly. 

There is a lot that still needs to be studied about the tasting qualities of quails and other birds and future research should look into this to find out more about their inherent behaviors. 

Also check out this article on why quails call out at night

How Do Quails Drink Water?

Quails drink water from ponds or pools in the wild. Water is an essential nutrient for quails to grow and survive.

Quails who have access to water are more likely to be more nourished and look balanced.

When quails drink water, they dip their beaks into the water and move their heads back to allow the water to go down their throat.

Through a movement of the head which looks like bobbing the water can move from their mouth to their gullet.

It is important that quails have access to clean drinking water at all times as they use the water to push food down while eating.

When they wet their mouth, they use their tongue to push the food down their throat.

In captivity, quails should be provided with enough water in suitable waterers which would help keep the water clean as dirty water can lead to bacterial infections. 

Can Quails Taste Spicy Food?

Because of the lower number of taste buds that quails have, they are able to eat spicy foods and peppers but they do not feel the burn like we do. 

Food that humans will consider too hot and will not be easy for us to swallow and digest is usually scooped up by quails without any side effects.

With their taste buds less than 50, the ability to taste is not as sensitive in quails as it is in humans. Some quail keepers add peppered spices to their flock’s feed to entice them to eat.

It is safe to give them peppers as they can taste it but it’ll not burn as much as it does in humans.

Do Quails Stick Their Tongues Out?

Quails usually stick their tongue out as this activity helps them to cool their body temperature, it is their way of regulating their body.

They also sometimes stick their tongues out to catch insects and worms.

In captivity, if a quail is unable to eat and sticks its head out regularly, it might be a sign of disease or infection and the quail should be given medical attention immediately.

Quail are quite delicate creatures and being observant can save your quail bird from dying.

There might be sores at it’s throat or it could have food particles or other objects lodged in its throat which will curtail swallowing and cause the tongue sticking out behavior. 


Raising quail birds is becoming popular each day. They have excellent egg quality and great meat taste.

The subject of tongues in quails has been studied by few researchers and they were able to discover the shape of the tongue, some of it’s peculiar characteristics and differences from other bird’s tongues.

Quails have significantly less taste buds than humans and as such they do not taste food the same way we do. They use their tongues to catch insects and also push food down their throats.

These quail facts are quite important in helping humans further understand them and determine their behavior and ecology 

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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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