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Unlocking the Secrets of the Brown Quail: Behaviors and Traits

The Brown Quail, scientific name Synoicus ypsilophorus, is a small bird species endemic to Australia, where it is found in grasslands, woodlands, and scrublands. Despite being widespread in its range, it is still considered a secretive bird due to its skulking nature.

In this article, we will learn about the identification, plumages, and molts of the Brown Quail.


Field Identification

The Brown Quail is a small bird, about 20cm in length, and has a brown and grey plumage with distinctive white eye stripes. Its tail is short and rounded, and its legs are pale brown.

The male Brown Quail has a rusty-red patch on its breast, while the female has a plain brown breast. The Brown Quail is known for its secretive nature and is typically found in dense vegetation, making it hard to spot.

Similar Species

The Brown Quail can be mistaken for other small quail species commonly found in Australia, such as the Stubble Quail and the Little Button Quail. The Stubble Quail is typically found in grasslands and has a more rufous and grey plumage than the Brown Quail.

The Little Button Quail, on the other hand, has a distinctive white eyebrow and a more mottled plumage compared to the Brown Quail.


The Brown Quail has three plumages – juvenile, non-breeding, and breeding.

Juvenile Plumage

The juvenile plumage of the Brown Quail is similar to the adult non-breeding plumage, but with a more uniform brown coloration and less distinctive eye stripes. The rusty-red patch that is present in the breeding male is absent in the juvenile plumage.

Non-breeding Plumage

The non-breeding plumage of the Brown Quail is predominantly brown and grey, with a distinctive white eye stripe and a pale brown breast. Both the male and female have the same plumage during the non-breeding season.

Breeding Plumage

The breeding plumage of the Brown Quail is different for male and female birds. The male bird has a rusty-red chest patch and a black chin, while the female bird has a plain brown breast.

During breeding season, the Brown Quail’s plumage becomes brighter and more vibrant.


The Brown Quail molts twice a year, once during autumn and once during spring. The molt results in a change in plumage from breeding to non-breeding and vice versa.

During the molting period, the Brown Quail is more vulnerable to predation as its feathers become less aerodynamic and it cannot fly as well.


The Brown Quail is a small bird with a distinctive brown and grey plumage. It is commonly found in grasslands, woodlands, and scrublands in Australia.

The bird has three plumages – juvenile, non-breeding, and breeding, and molts twice a year. Due to its skulking nature, the Brown Quail is not easy to spot in the wild.

Understanding the identification, plumages, and molts of the Brown Quail can help birders and wildlife enthusiasts have a better appreciation for this unique and secretive bird.

Systematics History of the Brown Quail

The Brown Quail (Synoicus ypsilophorus) is a small species in the Phasianidae family, endemic to Australia. The species was first described by John Gould in 1837 and has since undergone several taxonomic revisions.

Geographic variation, subspecies, and related species of the Brown Quail will be discussed in this article, as well as the historical changes to its distribution.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to the differences in appearance and genetics of individuals that occur between populations of the same species in different geographical locations. The Brown Quail has a wide distribution range across Australia, and due to its isolated regions of occurrence, the population differentiation is significant.

The genetic variation in Brown Quail populations reflects the habitat heterogeneity in their range and is most distinct between Western and Eastern regions. Genetic studies have shown that there is a considerable genetic differentiation between the Eastern subspecies (S.

y. ypsilophorus, S.

y. earlei, and S.

y. peninsularis) and the Western subspecies (S.

y. papuanus and S.

y. brachypterus).


There are five recognized subspecies of Brown Quail as listed below:

1. S.

y. brachypterus – Found in the southwest of Western Australia.

2. S.

y. paperanus – Found across a large part of Western and South Australia, and also occurring in the Northern Territory.

3. S.

y. peninsularis – Found in the Cape York Peninsula and the nearby surrounding regions of northeastern Australia.

4. S.

y. ypsilophorus – Found in southeastern Australia from southern Queensland and New South Wales to Victoria and Tasmania.

5. S.

y. earlei – Found in the central area of Australia, from western Queensland to the Northern Territory and southwestern Western Australia.

The Western subspecies (S. y.

papuanus and S. y.

brachypterus) have shorter wings and are therefore lesser flycatchers than the Eastern subspecies. The eastern subspecies are also slightly larger and have slightly longer tails.

Related Species

The Brown Quail belongs to the Galliformes order and the Phasianidae family, which includes pheasants, partridges, and quails. There are more than 150 species in this family, and the Brown Quail belongs to the Coturnix genus along with other quail species such as the Japanese Quail and the Stubble Quail.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Brown Quail was once distributed throughout most of Tasmania and mainland Australia south of the Tropic of Capricorn. However, historical changes in distribution have occurred since the species was first documented.

In the mid-19th century, the species was abundant across southern Queensland and New South Wales, but due to land clearing, grazing, and habitat destruction, the population declined significantly. The population decline has also been attributed to over-hunting and predation by introduced predators such as foxes and cats.

The Brown Quail was introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s and 1870s but did not establish a viable breeding population. In the early 20th century, there were intentional attempts to introduce the species to Hawaii and Fiji, but these introductions also failed.

Currently, the species is listed as being of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List due to its wide distribution range, but certain populations have locally declined, particularly in some regions of southern Australia and Tasmania.


The Brown Quail is a small endemic bird species found in Australia, and the populations exhibit significant genetic differentiation between different geographic locations. There are a total of five subspecies of Brown Quail, each with distinct features in size and appearance.

The distribution of the Brown Quail has been affected by several factors, including land use practices, hunting, and predation by introduced predators, and as a result, certain populations have locally declined. Understanding the systematics history, geographic variation, subspecies, and changes to distribution can help with the conservation and management efforts of this unique and beautiful species.

Habitat of the Brown Quail

The Brown Quail (Synoicus ypsilophorus) is found throughout a diverse range of habitats in Australia. The species has adapted and can live in a variety of grasslands, woodlands, and scrublands across the continent.

This article will discuss the habitat of the Brown Quail in detail.

Habitat Requirements

Brown Quails have a high tolerance for different habitats, as they are found in a variety of environments throughout Australia. The birds prefer dense vegetation cover and are commonly found in grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands with a variety of grass and shrub layers.

Additionally, they need areas with accessible water sources, such as creeks or ponds. Brown Quails require dense cover for protection against predators and also for nesting.

Brown Quails commonly use shrubs as their nesting sites. The species often builds the ground nests in the shrubby areas or tussock grasslands under thick vegetation cover.

The nests are made from grasses and lined with feathers, and the young typically leave the nest within one day of hatching.

Grasslands Habitat

The Brown Quail habitat can be found in a variety of grasslands. They prefer grassy landscapes with a mixture of short grasses, sedges, and herbs.

Brown Quails prefer wet or well-drained areas, and the grasslands of Australian wetlands and estuaries provide ideal habitats for them. The birds also prefer to inhabit the tropical or subtropical areas of the grasslands with high rainfall, as the vegetation is thicker and more dense.

They can also be found in the arid grasslands of the interior of Western Australia, which are characterized by sparse cover and patchy shrubby vegetation.

Woodlands Habitat

The Brown Quail prefers open woodlands that provide medium and low vegetation covers. The birds prefer to nest under dense shrubs and low vegetation.

They are also commonly found in eucalyptus woodlands with understory grasses and shrubs. The birds often hide and feed in the leaf litter, using it as cover to avoid detection by predators.

Scrublands Habitat

The Brown Quail is commonly found in scrublands with thick and tangled vegetation. They are also found in the marginal forests along the beach and hinterlands where the vegetation includes thick shrubs and scrub.

They prefer the areas with a shrub layer and mid-story canopy layer for security.

Movements and Migration

Brown Quails are non-migratory birds and do not undertake any long-distance movements. The juvenile Brown Quails may disperse after the breeding season to establish breeding territories or new populations.

However, the adults remain in their established territories throughout their entire lives. The Brown Quail movements are often influenced by the weather, food availability, and population densities.

They may change their locations between different habitats following droughts or wildfires. Individuals may leave a location in search of better food resources if they are in short supply.

Brown Quails can adjust to the conditions of their current habitat and are known to become resident in areas where food, shelter, and water sources are plentiful.


The Brown Quail is a bird species that can live in a variety of habitats, which is a testament to its adaptability. The birds prefer dense vegetation cover and are commonly found in grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands.

Their nesting habits involve selecting dense cover, such as shrubs. The Brown Quail is not known for movement over long distances, and their non-migratory nature means they establish themselves in territories.

Short-distance movements may occur seasonally or in response to environmental factors such as wildfires and droughts. Understanding the habitats and movements of Brown Quail is crucial to assist in conservation and management efforts.

Diet and Foraging of the Brown Quail

The Brown Quail is a small bird species endemic to Australia, and its diet and foraging habits are shaped by its habitat and regional conditions. In this article, we will discuss the feeding behavior of the Brown Quail, its diet, and how it regulates body temperature through metabolism.

Feeding Behavior

The Brown Quail is a ground-dwelling bird that spends much of its time foraging near dense cover for protection against predators. It is a shy and elusive bird and is most active during the daytime, although it may also forage at night in well-lit areas.

The birds are social and often forage in flocks. Foraging in groups increases the chances of finding food and gaining protection from predators.

The birds maintain contact through vocalization and often have one individual assigned to be the sentinel, keeping watch for approaching predators.


The Brown Quail has an omnivorous diet, consisting of plant materials and invertebrates. The foods consumed depend on season and region and may include roots, seeds, grasses, and insects.

Insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and termites are an essential source of protein for the birds. In dry regions, the Brown Quail feeds on seeds, fresh vegetation, and insects, while in wetter regions, snails, worms, and other invertebrates become a more significant part of their diet.

The birds also feed on plants such as succulent herbs and berries. The seeds of grasses and herbs can form a significant proportion of a Brown Quails diet and are a primary food source in areas with less insect biomass.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Brown Quail is a small bird species, and its metabolic rate is relatively high. To maintain body heat in cooler areas, the bird expends more energy, and their body can produce heat by shivering.

In hot weather, the Brown Quail uses two methods to regulate its body temperature: panting and gular fluttering. Panting is the process where the birds increase their respiratory rate, allowing them to expel heat.

Gular fluttering involves the exhaustion of water from the respiratory system, and as the air passes over the surfaces of the tongue, the heat is dissipated quickly.

These techniques allow the Brown Quail to regulate its body temperature and keep from overheating or becoming hypothermic in different weather conditions.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization is an essential aspect of the Brown Quail’s behavior and communication. The birds have a range of calls and unique sounds that they use to communicate with their mates and flock members.

The most common call of the Brown Quail is a repetitive whistle that is often described as sounding like “wet my lips.” The birds use this call to locate and stay in contact with their flock members and mates.

Brown Quails will often emit distress calls if they detect a predator’s presence or feel threatened.

The birds may also give alarm calls to warn their flock members of an approaching predator. The male Brown Quail also has a distinctive courtship call during mating season, consisting of a series of low-pitched notes followed by a nasal “fe-e-e-e.” The males will often call out repeatedly while carrying out a dance-like display to attract females.


The Brown Quail is an endemic bird species found in Australia that feeds on a diverse diet of plant materials and invertebrates. Their foraging behavior involves staying close to dense cover, foraging in groups, and keeping in contact with other flock members through vocal communication.

The birds are also able to regulate their body temperature through metabolism and vocalization. Vocalization is an essential aspect of the Brown Quail’s behavior and communication, allowing them to stay in contact with their flock members and mates, to warn of predators and to impress potential mates during mating season.

Behavior of the Brown Quail

The Brown Quail (Synoicus ypsilophorus) is a small, ground-dwelling bird native to Australia. Its behavior is shaped by its habitat and regional conditions.

In this article, we will discuss the locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, sexual behavior, breeding, and demography and populations of the Brown Quail.


The Brown Quail is well adapted to its terrestrial lifestyle and spends much of its time on the ground. The birds are capable of running quickly across the ground to escape predators or catch prey.

The birds are also capable of quick bursts of flight when necessary, but they prefer to move on foot. In dense vegetation, the Brown Quail moves by hopping and fluttering its wings.

The birds use their wings to stabilize themselves when moving quickly and to quickly change direction.


Self-maintenance is essential for the survival and health of the Brown Quail. The birds spend significant time preening their feathers to keep them clean and in good condition.

They also take dust or sand baths to clean their feathers and rid themselves of parasites and excess oil.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior refers to the behaviors that animals exhibit when they interact with others from the same species. Brown Quails exhibit agonistic behavior when competing for resources or defending their territory against other birds.

The birds may show aggressive displays by erecting their feathers and wings, or they may physically attack an intruder. The aggression the Brown Quail displays varies depending on sex and age.

Males are often more aggressive than females during mating season, and younger birds are more aggressive than older ones.

Sexual Behavior

Brown Quail breeding behaviors are complex and involve various vocalizations, displays, and courtship rituals. Males establish a territory and attract a female mate through vocalizations and displays.

Once pair bonds are formed, males will perform a courtship display to impress their mates. Typically, males will puff up their chest and flap their wings while calling, or they will scratch the ground and lower their heads.


The breeding season of the Brown Quail varies across different regions of Australia and is influenced by environmental factors such as rainfall. Generally, the breeding season occurs from August to April in the southern regions and from February to October in the northern regions.

Brown Quails build their nests on the ground under dense vegetation cover, using grasses and other plant material. Females generally lay eggs in clutches of 5-12 eggs, which they incubate for around 18-21 days.

Once hatched, Brown Quail chicks are precocial, meaning that they are capable of movement and feeding themselves soon after birth.

Demography and Populations

The Brown Quail

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