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Do Quail Fly: UPDATED [Complete Guide]

People have been hunting quailOpens in a new tab. for a long time. In fact, they are one of the most sought after games in the world. This is because they are extremely elusive, versatile, and smart. Simply put, quail can make for some of the most difficult hunts in the world.  If you want to put your true tests and wits to the grindstone as a hunter, you’ll consider quail as a prey. Despite this, there are still tons of things that people don’t know about the animal. So, do quail fly?

Quail can and do fly but they actually don’t like to. Quail do possess the ability to take to the fly, but it is not something they like to do. In fact, they’ll only do it in the rarest of cases.

To learn more about quail and why they are such an alluring prey continue reading the information below.

Why Don’t Quail Like To Fly

Most people just assume because a bird has wings that it would like to fly. Sure, to the common human or individual, flying might seem like a great attribute to have in your arsenal.

There is no denying that it would be exciting, but just imagine the energy that it would take to stay in the air. And, what about all the safety risks?

Do you know how many birds each year die because of flying-related mishaps? Too many! Along with this, just because a bird has wings it doesn’t necessarily mean that its a natural flyer or even good at flying, thus is the case with the elusive quail.

Both the quail and chicken belong to what is known as the gallinaceous order. This also includes grouse, ptarmigans, turkeys, pheasants, partridges, and the like. Gallinaceous birds are not known for their flying abilities. They are more known as plump ground-feeders with poor flying abilities.

Quail will, however, take to the air when it is convenient for them to do so or absolutely necessary. However, most of the time, they like to stick to the ground.

Now, this doesn’t mean they aren’t elusive on the ground because that would be a lie. They are quite elusive on the ground, with the innate ability to weave in and out of the thickest underbrush at speeds of 12 miles per hour.

The European Quail And Migration

Regarding the above information, there is one rare exception. And, that rare exception would be the European quail. These birds are a huge migration population. They are constantly migrating back and forth between Europe and Africa. It is possible that they could walk the entire length of the trip, but they prefer to fly it.

There is no denying that flying is much faster, but it seems that they have a natural affinity for flying, whereas the other species of quail do not. Another interesting thing is that these birds are extremely toxic when they are migrating.

There is no explanation as to why this is the cause, but they are extremely toxic when migrating, so it best to stay away from them. 

On a side note, you might remember a little interesting story from the Book of Numbers. There is a story in there about God getting angry at the Israelites for eating quail that blown in on the wind. They got a free and easy feast, but end up later with quail poisoning.

This could be one explanation as to why they are toxic during migration. It could also be entirely possible that it is the low humidity that makes them toxic. Whatever the situation is, best to stay away from the European quail when it’s migrating.

Other Species

You might be surprised to hear it, but there are actually a variety of quail species out there. Amongst them, one of the most popular and sought after is the California quail.

The male of the species will be plump, short-legged with a forward-facing comma-shaped crest. They usually appear in scaled black and white with a chestnut belly patch.

There are also sometimes black and white marking on the neck. The female, on the other hand, is brownish-gray on the neck and face and doesn’t have the same strong head markings like the male.

It should be fairly easy to distinguish between the male and female. However, distinguishing these species from the other might prove somewhat difficult. There really are four main keys to proper identification.

These would be size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat.

Size And Shape – You just learned that this species is plump, short-necked, and contains a small head and bill. They will fly short distances, but once again, it is something they do not prefer. They do, however, have extremely broad wings and this could be another good identification market. Both sexes of this species have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers that projects forward from the forehead. The males, in this case, will be much longer. Both species are similar in size and can range from 9.4 to 10.6 inches in length, 4.9 to 8.1 ounces in weight, and their wingspan can be anywhere from 12.6 to 14.6 inches.

Color Pattern – The color pattern is another go-to identification marker when it comes to identifying the California quail. Adult males will appear with gray and brown colors on the body and a black face that is usually outlined with bold white markings. Both sexes usually have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales located on the belly. The younger of the birds tend to look more like the females but will have a much shorter topknot.

Behavior – The California quail, like its relatives, like to spend most of its time on the ground. They’ll walk around scratching in search of food. You can find them foraging under shrubs or open ground in the morning and evening looking for treats. They do like to travel in groups that are referred to as coveys. They are explosive flyers, but usually, only like to fly long enough to get away from danger.

Habitat – These birds are quite tolerant of people and sometimes can be found in parks, suburban gardens, and similar agricultural areas. However, they are usually only found in California in chaparral, sagebrush, oak woodlands, and foothill forests.


Quail might not be the strongest flyers, but they are certainly elusive. And, this is the main reason that people love to hunt them. If you want a good challenge, you’ll have one on your hands when it comes to the quail.

However, quail are not only hunted these days. Some people are even raising them for their delectable eggs and meat.

All that being said, quail are really becoming somewhat of an endangered species due to their dwindling habitat. Whether you are going to raise or hunt them, make sure you take advantage while you still have the opportunity.

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

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