King Quail

Synoicus chinensis

Last updated: November 15, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Independent birds/Shutterstock.com

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

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.

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 the King Quail

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.

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King Quail Nest

Males select the site in grasslands or swamps and help collect material as the females construct the nest. She lines a natural depression with grass, needles, and sedge.

Scientific Name

The king quail (Synoicus chinensis) is from the Galliformes order in the Phasianidae family, encompassing heavy ground-living birds. It’s in the same family as pheasants, chickens, and turkeys. The Synoicus genus contains four species of Old World quail. 

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

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

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

©Papa 1266/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

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

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

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 and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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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