Common Quail Coturnix coturnix


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 3,320,000-6,720,000 calling or lekking males, which equates to 6,630,000-13,400,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 40% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 16,575,000-33,500,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The population is therefore placed in the band 15,000,000-35,000,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is declining owing to netting of migrating birds. Local declines may be caused by changing agricultural practices, especially increased use of pesticides (del Hoyo et al. 1994). In Europe the population size is estimated to be fluctuating (BirdLife International 2015).


The following information refers to the species's habitat use within Europe. It is found in open habitats including agricultural land (Tucker and Heath 1994, McGowan et al. 2013) where it prefers fields of clover, winter wheat and other cereals as well as hay, rough grass and overgrown fallow (Tucker & Heath 1994). It avoids bare soils (McGowan et al. 2013), trees and scrub (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Aubrais et al. 1986), preferring areas with a dense herb layer less than 1 m tall. Egg-laying occurs from mid-May to August in northern Europe and late March to mid-June in southern Europe. Typically 8–13 eggs are laid. The nest consists of a scrape with grassy material added and is found in herbaceous vegetation or grasses. Birds feed mainly on the seeds of grasses, weeds and grain but will also eat ground-dwelling invertebrates. Birds are migratory, with most of the western Palearctic population wintering south of the Sahara mainly in the Sahel zone; however birds may winter as far north as the British Isles and Germany or around the Mediterranean (McGowan et al. 2013). Birds may also winter in north-west Africa and remain to breed in March-April before migrating into Europe where they breed once again (Guyomarc'h and Saint-Jalme 1986, Guyomarc'h 1992, Rodriguez-Teijeiro et al. 1992). Migration routes are thought to vary between individuals and years (McGowan et al. 2013).


In Europe agricultural intensification has led to the loss of rough grass and uncultivated land and an increase in the use of herbicides and insecticides which have led to a reduction on the availability of weeds, seeds and insects (Tucker and Heath 1994). Hybridization with Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica) is a serious danger in southern Europe (Tucker and Heath 1994, Chazara et al. 2010). Other potential threats driving declines in Europe are hunting, long-term climactic fluctuations and drought in the sub-Saharan wintering grounds (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex II. Hunting legislation in Europe is in place but is poorly enforced (Tucker and Heath 1994). A European Species Management Plan was published in 2009 (Perennou 2009).

Conservation Actions Proposed
In Europe the introduction of wide-scale habitat conservation measures is needed, including the maintenance and promotion of low-intensity farming methods and the avoidance of ploughing or cutting in the nesting period. Existing hunting legislation in Europe should be enforced and hunters and trappers made aware of the dangers of excessive mortality. In addition the further release of C. japonica should be prevented within Europe (Tucker and Heath 1994). Adequate population monitoring to assess hunting pressure and population trends should be implemented and research to investigate population dynamics undertaken (Perennou 2009).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Ashpole, J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Coturnix coturnix. Downloaded from on 26/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/02/2024.