Coturnix adansonii (Blue quail) 

Bloukwartel [Afrikaans]; Huta (generic name for quail) [Shona]; Xindogo, Xitshatshana [Tsonga]; Caille bleue [French]; Zwergwachtel [German]; Codorniz-azul [Portuguese]

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Coturnix adansonii (Blue quail)   

Blue quail, Noorderdierenpark Zoo, the Netherlands. [photo Hilde Bakering-Pilkington ©]

 

Identification

The male is a colourful, attractively patterned quail with black and white throat and unlike other local quails, does not have a white eyebrow stripe. It also has distinctive slate blue colouring on the breast. In flight the rufous on the upper wing coverts is distinctive. The female and juvenile can be distinguished from other quails by the barring on breast and flanks.

The Blue quail is the smallest of the quails in southern Africa, weighing only 43-47 g (range of average weights for other quail in the region is 70 to 100 g; the average weights of buttonquails, which fall in a different order altogether, range from 35-60 g).

The Blue quail is considered to be very similar to the Blue-breasted quail Coturnix chinensis, which occurs in Asia, and in fact with further research they may turn out to be assessed as the same species.

Blue quail are difficult to see as they are not only highly localised within southern Africa but within their prime habitat they usually remain under cover and are difficult to flush. However, they evidently come into the open to feed in the early morning, shortly after dawn.

Distribution and habitat

Most often occurs in moist grassy habitats within woodland, often along the border of wetlands. Its distribution ranges through moist woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Within southern Africa it is found mainly on the Mashonaland plateau in Zimbabwe and in parts of Mozambique. There are also isolated records mainly from KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It is considered to be a summer breeding visitor to southern Africa, its migration patterns beings strongly influenced by rainfall. After breeding it migrates to areas of Africa north of southern Africa but little is known about the nature of these migrations other than that they are undertaken at night (birds are attracted to lights at night). 

Distribution of Blue quail in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).

Call

 
   

Recorded in 1984, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Predators and parasites

Little information available. Nests and young birds would be particularly vulnerable to mammalian predators.

Food

The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Seeds of grasses and weeds
  • Green plant material
  • Insects, including termites
  • Molluscs

Breeding

A clutch of 3-9 eggs is laid in the summer rainy season, from December to April. The nest is a scrape in the ground among grasses or sedges and sometimes has a lining of grass stems. Incubation last about 16 days and the limited information available indicates that it is undertaken by the female although the presence of a brood patch in the male suggests that he may also incubate. Both male and female care for the young, which become independent at about four weeks when they have become capable in flight. Ambient temperatures of less than 20șC can cause death of chicks in their first 2-3 weeks.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. 3rd edition. Struik, Cape Town.

 
 

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