What Do Quails Eat? Their 5+ Favorite Foods

Written by Volia Schubiger
Updated: October 14, 2023
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Quails are plump birds with brown to bluish-gray feathers that belong to the pheasant family. As migratory birds, quails can be found all around the world in several different habitats including grasslands, meadows, and tall grasses. Averaging 4.5 to 7.8 inches in length and 2.4 to 4.9 ounces of weight, quails are quite small. Which leads us to the question, what do quails eat?

We’ll explore what quails eat both in the wild and how to feed them as domesticated pets. 

What Do Quails
Quails’ diets include grains, forbs, ragweed, and insects.

What Quails Eat

Quails eat seeds, leaves, wheat, barley, berries, and small insects. They are predominately omnivores as their diet consists of both plant-based and animal-based foods. More specifically, they are classified as foraging omnivores, as they display opportunistic behavior in the wild. Most of their nutrition comes from seeds and grains and it’s not uncommon to find a flock of quails crowding bird feeders and farm areas where grains and seeds are being grown.

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Throughout the year, quails are granivores, as seeds are a major part of a quail’s diet, especially during the colder seasons. However, they will not eat all types of seeds and can be particular about the seed texture and type. They prefer hard, slick seeds and will eat dried and hardened grains that can be found while scratching and pecking at the ground. 

Take a look at the complete list of what quails eat to get a better idea of their diet: 

  • Grains (cracked corn, wheat, rye, millet, barley, and broken rice) 
  • Seeds (ragweed, foxtail, annual broomweed, queen’s delight, and plains bristlegrass)
  • Leafy greens (lettuce, broccoli, clover, peas, radish, lotus, celery, thistle, and red maids)
  • Insects and invertebrates (crickets, grasshoppers, worms, beetles, bees, moths, spiders, roaches, and ants)
  • Berries and fruits (blackberries, apples, huckleberries, grapes, snowberries, dragon fruit, and currants)
  • Nuts and legumes (acorns, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, hickory nuts, and peanuts)

When they aren’t raising chicks, grains provide quails with many minerals and vitamins that they require to survive. While they do eat many types of leafy greens and fruits, they can’t survive solely on these as they don’t contain enough fat and protein. This is why many quails mix up their diets with protein and fat-rich foods like grains and nuts with fruits and greens. However, much of their diet also depends on the season. 

What Do Quails Eat in the Summer?

Birds that eat ticks: Quail

Quails eat more leafy greens and fruits in the summer months.

©iStock.com/twildlife

Quails are found on every continent on the planet except Antarctica. Since quails live all around the world in many different climates, their diets will vary, especially with the seasons. Throughout most of the year, wild quails will eat mostly grains and seeds that they’ve foraged. 

Throughout the breeding months of April through June, insects, and invertebrates make up almost 60% of their diet as egg-laying and rearing require high amounts of energy. A study in The World’s Poultry Journal found that in the wild, the quail prefer diets relatively high in protein in order to thrive and reproduce efficiently. 

During the hotter summer months, seeds become less available. In order to supplement their diet, quails will begin to eat more leafy greens and fruits. However, even when grains and seeds are widely available, they will still eat insects and leafy greens. Quails will also increase their intake of insects in the summer to better prepare themselves for the harsher winter months. 

What Do Baby Quails Eat?

Californian quail chick

Quail chicks eat a high-protein diet.

©Tony Wills / Creative Commons

Baby quails are called chicks and their diets are quite different from adult quails. Quail chicks eat insects exclusively. When quails lay eggs, they typically have 7-14 in a clutch, meaning that there are a lot of tiny mouths to feed. Large amounts of protein are essential to the growth of the chicks as well as replenishing energy in adult quails, and insects provide both a hearty amount of protein. Once chicks turn eight weeks old, they begin to forage on their own and eat as an adult. This is why many quails continue to eat insects well into adulthood.

Do Quails Have Any Predators?

Quails are both wild and domesticated birds, giving the domesticated birds much protection from predators. However, as such small birds, wild quails are still incredibly susceptible to many predators. 

Quail are often the victims of large predators such as cats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, hawks, owls, and snakes. They are hunted for both their meat and their eggs.

Along with natural predators, quails are also hunted by humans for game. Quail are also farmed for their eggs and meat. Commercial quail farms often cram the birds into small spaces that are overcrowded with loud noises that startle and stress the birds. 

What to Feed Quails As Pets

Quails can make for fantastic pets and normally only need a small cage or coop to live comfortably.

©Brocken Inaglory / Creative Commons

Small birds have been a popular pet choice for many pet owners, and quails are no exception to that. They make a great pet choice for several reasons. Quails are known for their fun personality and are generally quiet birds. They also normally only need a small cage or coop to live comfortably. Quails are also great as many enjoy having a bird that lays such delicious eggs.  

As a pet, domesticated quail are known for being just as picky as their wild brethren. However, their diets are still quite similar. Pet quails can be fed commercial feed to keep them healthy. However, it’s important to be aware of nutrient deficiencies that may occur with commercial feed that comes in varying sizes, as quail will forage through the feed to find the specific pieces that they prefer and will leave behind all the other sizes. 

If you have a wide-open space where they can roam, domesticated quails are also more than happy to forage out in the backyard instinctively. Still, be sure to continue to feed them bird crumble to ensure they are getting all of their vitamins and minerals. 

Summary of What Quails Eat

Here’s a recap of what comprises quails’ diets.

NumberCategoryFood
1GrainsCracked corn, wheat, rye, millet, barley, and broken rice
2SeedsRagweed, foxtail, annual broomweed, queen’s-delight, and plains bristlegrass
3Leafy greensLettuce, broccoli, clover, peas, radish, lotus, celery, thistle, and red maids
4Insects and invertebratesCrickets, grasshoppers, worms, beetles, bees, moths, spiders, roaches, and ants
5Berries and fruitsBlackberries, apples, huckleberries, grapes, snowberries, dragon fruit, and currants
6Nuts and legumesAcorns, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, hickory nuts, and peanuts

What Should Quails Not Eat?

California quail, Callipepla californica, taken in California, USA, taken in wild. The bird is visible in the right frame, facing left. Its back is a fawn brown color with white specks on its wings. Its chest is gray. Its face is black with a white outline. It has a dark plume on its forehead.

Wild quails will know to stay away from certain toxic species since they often will not be in contact with these items but pet quails may be a bit more susceptible.

©Agnieszka Bacal/Shutterstock.com

There are several different types of foods that can be toxic to quails and should never be fed to them, which include wild quails as well as pet quails. In addition, there are certain plants that they should stay away from. Some of these foods are:

  • Avocado
  • Anything Salty
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Grape Seeds
  • Majority of Citrus Fruits
  • Meat
  • Parsley
  • Rhubarb
  • Stems and Leaves of Tomato Plants
  • Uncooked Potatoes

Some of these toxic plants, that contain the toxic chemical compound Coniine, are:

  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Hellebores
  • Seeds of the annual woundwort (Stachys annua)

It is also important to note that although quails won’t typically eat anything that is toxic to them unless they are hungry, so should you should make sure your quail is sufficiently fed. Additionally, they should not be given any food that comes from your garden as they may figure out where their food source is and help themselves to extra food. This is not only harmful to your garden but can be harmful to this bird.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Banu R


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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