King Quail

Synoicus chinensis

Last updated: May 30, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Independent birds/Shutterstock.com

Females look similar to males but don’t come in shades of blue


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King Quail Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Synoicus
Scientific Name
Synoicus chinensis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

King Quail Conservation Status

King Quail Locations

King Quail Locations

King Quail Facts

Prey
small insects, seeds, grasses, plants, small nuts, berries, and grains.
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
Females look similar to males but don’t come in shades of blue
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss, climate change, and overhunting
Most Distinctive Feature
Small size
Distinctive Feature
rust-colored bellies
Incubation Period
16 days
Age Of Independence
6 to 7 weeks
Habitat
Shrublands, grasslands, swamps
Predators
foxes, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
King quail
Number Of Species
6
Location
Asia, Australia
Nesting Location
Natural depression in grasslands or swamps

King Quail Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Orange
  • Silver
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
2.8 years
Weight
0.99 to 1.4 ounces
Length
4.9 to 5.5 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
under 3 months

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They are capable of flying but prefer to spend their time on the ground.

Summary

King quail (Synoicus chinensis) are small “true quail” native to Asia and Australia. They inhabit shrublands, grasslands, and swamps and spend much of their time foraging on the ground in flocks. These birds have rounded bodies and come in varying shades of blue, silver, and maroon, with their signature rusty red undersides. Learn everything there is to know about this quail species, including where to find it, what it eats, and how it behaves.

King quail infographic

5 Amazing King Quail Facts

  • You can find king quail worldwide in Aviculture, but they inhabit Southern Asia, Oceania, and parts of Australia in the wild.
  • Females look similar to males but don’t come in shades of blue.
  • Their calls sound like a descending whistle or raspy snoring.
  • They can fly but prefer to stay on the ground. They also cannot fly long distances.
  • They have a short lifespan of around two years but can live up to 13 in captivity.

Where to Find Them

King Quails

King Quails can fly but prefer to stay on the ground. They also cannot fly long distances.

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©Papa 1266/Shutterstock.com

The king quail is native to Asia and Australia and found in at least 19 countries, including China, India, Singapore, Guam, and Thailand. In Aviculture, you can find king quail worldwide. They range from Southern China to Oceania to Southeastern Australia in the wild. They live in tropical and temperate shrublands, grasslands, swamps, and near coastal areas. Look for them on the ground as they forage in flocks, and keep an eye out for their rusty red undersides.

Nest

King quail

King quail are monogamous and form strong pair bonds.

©Assoonas/Shutterstock.com

King quail, also known as the Asian blue quail, are small ground-dwelling birds. These birds are known for their intricate nest-building skills, which they use to create a safe haven for their eggs and chicks.

The nests of king quails vary depending on the location where they live and breed. In general, these birds prefer nesting in grassy areas with low vegetation cover, such as savannas or open woodlands. They typically build their nests close to the ground using materials like leaves, twigs, stems, and other plant matter.

Interestingly, king quails will often reuse old nests from previous breeding seasons after making some necessary repairs. When building new nests or repairing old ones, these birds will use their beaks to weave together strands of grass and other materials until a sturdy structure is formed.

Once completed, king quail nests feature a central cup-shaped depression lined with soft feathers or fur that serve as insulation against temperature changes during incubation. Female king quails lay around 6-8 eggs per clutch, which hatch within 12-14 days under optimal conditions.

Overall, despite being relatively simple structures compared to those built by larger bird species like eagles or storks, King Quail’s nests are marvels of engineering ingenuity that enable these tiny birds to successfully raise their young in challenging environments while avoiding predators such as snakes and foxes.

Scientific Name

Blue-headed quail-dove or blue-headed partridge-dove - Starnoenas cyanocephala walking on ground. Photo from Cueva de los Peces Cuba.

©Piotr Poznan/Shutterstock.com

The king quail (Synoicus chinensis) is from the Galliformes order in the Phasianidae family.

The king quail has six recognized subspecies:

  • E. c. chinensis: Found in India and Sri Lanka to Malaya, Indochina, southeastern China, and Taiwan
  • Nicobar blue-breasted quail: Found on Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • E. c. lineata: Found in the Philippines, Borneo, Lesser Sundas, Sulawesi, and Sula Islands
  • E. c. lepida: Found in the Bismarck Archipelago
  • E. c. australis: Found in eastern Australia
  • E. c. colletti: Found in northern Australia

Evolution and Origins

Diminutive Tiny Dainty Male King Quail in a Natural Background.

King quail are also called blue-breasted quail, Asian blue quail, and Chinese-painted quail

©Andreas Ruhz/Shutterstock.com

The evolutionary history of the king quail is a fascinating subject that has intrigued scientists for many years. While there is limited information in the fossil record about this bird species, researchers have been able to draw some conclusions about its evolution and origins through genetic analysis and molecular studies.

King quails are thought to be part of the Phasianidae family, which includes pheasants, partridges, and chickens. They are small game birds that inhabit grasslands and woodlands across Asia and Australia.

According to current research, it appears that king quails evolved around 5-6 million years ago from a common ancestor with other members of the Phasianidae family. Genetic studies suggest that they may have diverged from their closest relative – the Japanese quail – around 4 million years ago.

One interesting aspect of king quail evolution is their ability to hybridize with other species within their family. This suggests that they may have played an important role in shaping the diversity of modern-day game birds.

While there is not much evidence in the fossil record specifically related to king quails, researchers have found fossils belonging to other members of their family dating back as far as 33 million years ago. These fossils provide valuable insights into how these birds evolved over time and adapted to different environments.

Overall, while our knowledge about the evolutionary history of king quails remains somewhat limited due to a lack of physical evidence in the fossil record, ongoing research continues to shed new light on this intriguing topic.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Synoicus chinensis - Blue-breasted Quail male  female

King quail only weigh around 1 ounce. They have beautifully colored feathers.

©Tony Tilford/Shutterstock.com

The king quail is the smallest “true quail,” measuring 4.9 to 5.5 inches long and weighing 0.99 to 1.4 ounces, with an unknown wingspan. These rounded birds come in many colors: blue, brown, silver, maroon, and black. Their feet and legs are orange, their beaks are black, and their bellies are a red or rust color. They also have black and white striped necks. Females look similar to males, except they don’t come in shades of blue. 

These birds are social, forming long-term pair bonds and foraging on the ground with other quail. This species is not known for being overly noisy, but males may get loud during the breeding season. Their calls sound like a descending whistle or raspy snoring. They are capable of flying but prefer to spend their time on the ground. They don’t fly as well as other birds and do not travel long distances.

Migration Pattern and Timing

The king quail is nonmigratory, choosing to stay in its environment year-round. Also, these birds prefer to remain on the ground and can only fly short distances.

Diet

What Do Quails

King quails are omnivores who forage from the ground.

What Does the King Quail Eat?

They eat small insects, seeds, grasses, plants, small nuts, berries, and grains. They form “coveys,” or groups of 10 to 30, to forage and roost. You can find them pecking on the ground in the early morning and mid to late afternoon. 

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

King quail (synoicus chinensis) in back view turning its head to the side

King quail have short lifespans and only live an average of 3 years.

©markusmayer/Shutterstock.com

The IUCN lists the king quail as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and stable population, this species does not meet “threatened” status thresholds. Their exact threats are unknown, but they may be vulnerable to habitat changes from the agricultural industry, climate change, and overhunting.

What Eats the King Quail?

King quail predators include foxes, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, domestic dogs, and cats. Nest predation is also an issue for this species; their young are vulnerable to hawks, owls, rats, and weasels. When threatened, the king quail postures low to the ground emitting a rapid peeping call, and may lunge at or chase an intruder, especially if it’s another bird.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Portrait of a king quail (synoicus chinensis) in profile view

King quail lay between 5 to 13 eggs and keep them warm for 16 days.

©markusmayer/Shutterstock.com

King quail are monogamous and form strong pair bonds. This species’ mating system has not been thoroughly researched, so we don’t know much about their courting behavior and reproduction habits. Females typically lay 5 to 13 eggs and incubate them for 16 days. Their young leave the nest shortly after hatching and learn how to fend for themselves by following their mother. They are independent around six to seven weeks and sexually mature under three months. Their average lifespan is 2.8 years, but they can live up to 13 years in captivity.

Population

The global king quail population is unknown but is estimated to be stable without evidence. They are also not experiencing any extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in their numbers.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

King Quail FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can king quails fly?

They are capable of flying but prefer to spend their time on the ground. They don’t fly as well as other birds and do not travel long distances.

Where do king quail live?

The king quail is native to Asia and Australia and found in at least 19 countries, including China, India, Singapore, Guam, and Thailand.

How big is a king quail?

The king quail is the smallest “true quail,” measuring 4.9 to 5.5 inches long and weighing 0.99 to 1.4 ounces, with an unknown wingspan.

What do king quails sound like?

Their calls sound like a descending whistle or raspy snoring.

Do king quail migrate?

The king quail is nonmigratory, choosing to stay in its environment year-round.

What do king quail eat?

They eat small insects, seeds, grasses, plants, small nuts, berries, and grains.

What threatens the king quail?

Their exact threats are unknown, but they may be vulnerable to habitat changes from the agricultural industry, climate change, and overhunting.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Mdahlem.net, Available here: https://mdahlem.net/birds/1/kquail.php
  2. PLOS one / Elizabeth Adkins - Regan, Available here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155877
  3. BirdLife International, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22678979/92797212

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