Brown Quail

Coturnix ypsilophora

Brown Quail. Photo: Jeff Groves

Quail are difficult to spot until they flush, often from almost under the birder’s feet, however, they can  be detected by their distinctive calls, a loud, rising, double-note whistle in the case of the Brown Quail.

Brown Quail feed mainly on the seeds of grasses and herbs, and some leaves. They will also take insects and, worms. They forage on the ground in pairs or small groups.

Breeding takes place from August to January. Brown Quail are monogamous. The nest is a simple scrape in the ground in which a clutch of 7 to 11 pale bluish, yellowish or greenish-yellow is laid. Incubation is by the female. The male provisions and guards the young. If a second clutch is laid he takes full responsibility for the first clutch.

There is one subspecies in South Australia (Coturnix ypsilophora australis Latham, 1801).


A large plump quail predominantly brown in colour with a plain face. It lacks the distinctive supercilium, chin colours and streaking of stubble quail. The flanks and underparts have a light brown to rufous ground colour with wavy dark brown barring. The feathers of the back and wings have a darker and richer ground colour than the underparts, and vary from bluish-grey to rufous. Each feather has a pale central stripe and darker brown chevrons overlaying the ground colour. The overall effect is a complex cryptic plumage providing its owner with a perfect camouflage. Males and females are similar but with the female having heavier darker markings. The iris varies from orange to red, the bill is blue-black and the legs and feet orange-yellow. Immatures are similar to adults but with finer markings. Hatchlings are a uniform brown with a pair of faint dusky lines on the sides of the back.

Where to find it

Brown Quail are a rare species found throughout South Australia. They are found in denser, wetter environments than Stubble Quail, such as wet grassland and shrubland, cereal crops, stubble, coastal scrub, or dense vegetation fringing freshwater wetlands. Under favourable conditions the population may irrupt outside of its normal range into semi-arid and arid areas for short periods.

Brown Quail are a protected species under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act (rated as ‘Vulnerable’).