Colours of Coturnix Quail - A Celebration of these beautiful little birds

In the pages of this site, I write mostly on practical issues and as 'The Holistic Hen', I do always hope that I am looking at the whole bird. Thus plumage colour is important but just for once I'm going to to be a frivoler and concentrate on aesthetics. There are so many wonderful words to describe a collection of creatures and probably a 'murder of crows' and its antithesis a 'charm of finches' are my firm favourites. Even so, these are followed swiftly by an 'abominable sight of monks', a 'superfluity of nuns' and a 'busyness of ferrets'. Furthermore, with this week's addition of five, I feel well on the way to announcing that I have achieved a veritable 'drift' of coloured quail.

Tibetan Tuxedo Coturnix Quail - Organically raised

I thought I'd just showcase some of the colours I have at the moment and in this first part, I'm showing the most popular and common colours of quail, in male and female adult, juvenile and chick form. In the following two articles I'll show the more unusual colours. As some of these are a first for me, I haven't obviously as yet any pictures of chicks - hopefully that will be a part four to this article!  It certainly has been quite difficult to identify some of them, so another reason for writing this article is in the hope of clarifying what I believe to be the correct descriptions. If anyone reading this finds I have incorrectly identified my quail, then please do let me know.

Sir John Sebright, friend and fellow explorer with Charles Darwin, is mentioned by the latter in Chapter One of the Origin of the Species: 
'That most skilful breeder, Sir John Sebright, used to say, with respect to pigeons, that ‘he would produce any given feather in three years, but it would take him six years to obtain head and beak.’
Having dipped into F.B. Hutt's weighty tome and seminal work and in particular, the chapters on feathers and colours, that seems pretty good going to me.

Frizzled Roosters and hen, Mille Fleur, Gold Blue Splash, Silver Spangled



My copy of F.B Hutt Genetics of the Fowl
If you want to get into the 'science' of colour then I would recommend this work, though not as light reading! I bought this book some years ago on Amazon or rather it was bought for me in the US through Amazon.com here's the link  Genetics of the Fowl At the time we were living in the UK, where it was out-of-print but now it's available and if you are interested here is the link: F.B. Hutt  It's complicated, as with anything concerned with genetics but it's an absorbing and useful reference book. It helped me greatly in explaining how and why incredible, gloriously coloured Frizzles kept turning up in my flock!


Pharaoh or Brown

Below is a female (note the spotted breast) in the typical colours we might think of when the words Coturnix japonica or common quail are mentioned. The latter does disservice to this beautiful little creature. I prefer Pharaoh or the poetic French Caille de blés, 'quail of the cornfields', used in France to denote both the japonica and the very similar Coturnix coturnix, aka the wild and migratory European quail. These birds are so named because they concentrate around the French 'bread baskets' of the South West (Aquitaine) and Central region (L'île de France). It is also sadly apposite, that the names of the wild and hybridised brown quail are used synonymously, as before the practice was banned in 2005, vast quantities of brown Coturnix japonica were released yearly by hunting societies. These birds have subsequently interbred with the wild Coturnix and resulted in hybrid chicks, which do not possess migratory genes and often perish in the Winter months. It is a similar story to that of the hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon escaping every year into rivers and seas and in turn breeding with and changing the DNA of the wild fish.

Pharaoh Coturnix Quail Female


Below, here's a juvenile male enjoying a day out free ranging...

Pharaoh Coturnix Juvenile Male Free-ranging

and here's a very little Pharaoh coming out into the World....

Pharaoh Coturnix Quail Chick hatching out


and another showing how well camouflaged he can be.

Pharaoh Coturnix Chick a few days old


This ability of the young Pharaoh, with its 'wild quail' plumage to blend into the background, particularly when out in the open, is an incredible advantage. In addition, you will observe in Part Two of this article, pictures of the golden quail with their spotted and speckled plumage and how well that harmonises them in Nature. On a further note, this is of particular advantage if you wish to free-range your quail, under supervision. Below one of my young Pharaoh free-ranges the meadow under the watchful eye of mother Ardenner bantam and ourselves.

Pharaoh Coturnix Juvenile Quail free-ranging with Bantam Ardenner

Below, one of my male Pharaohs with his chums about to start work on sifting through and spreading the compost in the greenhouse. It's a plum job as its full of woodlice and probably a few red compost worms, which quail love. As you will observe, my White-laced Chamois Polish brothers are not amused!

Using Coturnix Quail to clear greenhouses of pests and weeds


The Pharaoh is in my experience a meticulous forager, a great helpmeet in the garden and a candidate for free-range. Its plumage being flecked black and brown, coupled with striped cream markings, significantly help to break-up its outline. To reiterate though, I would always be near enough to intervene in case of predator attack.

Pharaoh Coturnix Juvenile Quail free-ranging in a meadow

So, I hope I've sold you on the idea that there is nothing common about the brown quail, in fact quite the reverse.

Golden and Pharaoh Coturnix Quail Chicks with Mother Frizzle Cochin Bantam
In  the next article, I'll look at the glistening golds and shimmering whites and how a Spanish queen's declaration on a 15th century battlefield inspired a quail colour in France.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful then think about sharing it using the icons below and please feel free to ask questions, comment or share your own experiences of quail colours.

Thanks for dropping by and all the best,
Sue

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© 2018 Sue Cross





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