Pheasant vs Quail: What Are 8 Key Differences?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: May 14, 2022
© Brocken Inaglory / Creative Commons / Original
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We will be discussing the differences between a pheasant and a quail. While they are both birds in the Phasianidae family, they do have many distinguishing factors that contribute to their differences. While some people may have a tough time distinguishing what’s different about each bird because they can be similar, there are also many varied factors to look for to tell them apart. Let’s find out what they are!

Pheasant vs Quail: A Comparison 

Quails have a longer lifespan than pheasants.
Size21-34 In, Up To 3 lbs.Depends On The Species. However, The Common Quail Is 6-7 Inches, Weighing Up To 1 lb.
ColorsMales Are Brightly Colored, Females Tend To Be Tan Or BrownAlso Depends On The Species, But The Common Quail Is Often Brown In Color
VariationsUp To 49 Subspecies Of Pheasants130 Species Of Quail
DietOmnivore: Bugs, Seeds, Grains, WormsOmnivore: Fruits, Nuts, Insects, Mollusks
Lifespan1-2 Years1-6 Years
TemperamentIntelligent, CautiousCalm, Friendly, Quiet
HabitatsGrasslands, WetlandsFarmlands, Grasslands
Conservation StatusLeast ConcernLeast Concern
Pheasant vs Quail: A Comparison

Key Differences Between Pheasant vs Quail

The key differences between pheasant and quail are size, color, lifespan, diet, habitat, species, and temperament. A pheasant is usually larger than a quail and tends to be brighter in color unless it is a female. Pheasants are closely related to both turkeys and grouse, and they tend to stand out in the crowd due to the bright colors and patterns of their feathers. They are native to Eurasia but live all over the world. They do not migrate long distances and do not mate for life. In fact, once a male pheasant mates, he is off to the races, competing against other males for the next available mate.

Quails tend to be a lot smaller than pheasants, almost the same size as a crow or a songbird. They are often sold in the pet trade, and larger species of quail tend to be sold to farms for both food and eggs. As for coloring, they are typically variations of gray, white, brown, and tan, however, some species of quail can also be brown, red, or even spotted with yellow. Quails are native to several different countries and continents around the world. A quail egg is often referred to as a delicacy in North America, Asia, and Europe.

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Pheasant vs Quail: Size

Pheasant in flight
Pheasants are larger than quails.

©N p holmes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

A pheasant is usually 21-34 inches in length and can weigh up to 3 lbs, resembling a small turkey at times with its long tail and land-dwelling body.

A quail is much smaller, even though its larger subspecies can sometimes look like a smaller version of a pheasant. Quail sizes typically range anywhere from 6 to 7 inches, resembling sizes between crows and canaries.

Pheasant vs Quail: Colors

Pheasants are often known for their brightly colored feathers and intricate patterns. The common pheasant is also known as the ring-necked pheasant because its head is red and blue and has a white band around its neck. Another commonly known pheasant is called the golden pheasant and has bright colors consisting of gold, red and blue, its body resembling a small turkey with a uniquely patterned tail.

Quail can sometimes have brighter colors such as red or blue. However, they are mostly variations of white, gray, tan, and brown. The common quail is a light tan with a unique pattern in its feathers that can vary from both brown and black. The blue quail is said to be the most colorful of all quail, with a blue breast and red belly.

Pheasant vs Quail: Variations

The pheasant has up to 49 variations, all ranging from across the globe. The common pheasant is the most widespread pheasant; however, both the golden pheasant and Japanese green pheasant are also known because of their coloring. The most widely known pheasants would be the peacock pheasants, all varying in color. However, most of them have those distinct, large tails with unique blue patterns on them.

Unlike the pheasant, the quail is more widespread. In fact, quail consists of over 130 species! The common quail, also known as the European quail, is the most widespread species of quail. Species of Old World quail belong to the Phasianidae family, while species of New World Quail belong to the Odontophoridae family.

Pheasant vs Quail: Diet

Quails are omnivores.

©Brocken Inaglory / Creative Commons

Although both birds are omnivores, the pheasant typically eats bugs, seeds, grains, and worms, whereas the quail eats fruits, nuts, bugs, and mollusks. Quails are known to dig around and eat ticks!

Pheasant vs Quail: Lifespan

The pheasant can live on average between 1 to 2 years. The quail can live much longer, up to 6 years in some cases!

Pheasant vs Quail: Temperament

Pheasants are highly intelligent birds and often view humans as a threat. So, if they spot a human nearby, they will become overly cautious in nature. Pheasants in captivity, however, have been known to be aggressive towards their keepers.

Pheasant vs Quail: Habitat

Pheasant makes grasslands their habitat.

©gary noon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Pheasant habitats usually are grasslands and farmlands; however, they are known to live practically anywhere on lands such as rainforests, meadows, forests, mountainous regions, and scrublands. They do not migrate far but almost always need some sort of grassland area to feed and hide from predators.

Quail habitats also consist of grasslands; however, they tend to migrate even if the weather doesn’t change. They are particularly good at flying and can flock to anywhere from Europe to Africa. In fact, quails are versatile and can adapt to extreme weather if their habitats can support them, such as keeping protected from both wind and rain. Their feathers can keep them warm, and because of that, some quails do not even migrate when it’s wintertime.

Pheasant vs Quail: Conservation Status

Although, in some areas, pheasants may be of least concern, The World Pheasant Association classifies pheasants as one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world. This is likely due to both climate change and pollution; however, these birds are also hunted for sport, and that also plays a part in their conservation. Fortunately, there are several field and captive conservation projects around the globe to participate in. Because of this, humans are still able to help preserve the conservation of pheasants.

Because there are up to 130 species of quail, it is technically of Least Concern, especially in North America. However, it has been claimed that some species of quail in Old World Quail are extinct, such as the Coturnix genus.

Wrapping Up Pheasant vs Quail

Birds that eat ticks: Quail
Quails have different behavior.


While both the pheasant and quail often belong to the same family, there are many differences between these birds and their subspecies. Both their size, colors, and species vary so much that even the common pheasant and the common quail look nothing alike and can easily be distinguished. Although a lot of their habitats are the same, these birds are quite different in behavior, size, and variations, but all species of both pheasants and quail are fascinating to learn about because of their differences and variations!

The Featured Image

Male California Quail (Callipepla californica)
© Brocken Inaglory / Creative Commons / Original

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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