Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline, potentially owing to hunting and shifts in agriculture. Research is urgently required to establish population numbers, trends, and to assess and mitigate the threats to the species.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species was has been reported to be fairly common (del Hoyo et al. 1994; Fuller et al. 2000). However, owing to recent suspected declines, the species is likely to be less common than previously thought. National population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and <c.50 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
This species may have undergone a decline of over 80% between 1973 and 2002 (H. Nagata in litt. 2009). Declines also appear to have occurred in Laos (Duckworth 2009), and although reliable population data are lacking, the species is suspected to have undergone a decline of 20-29% over the past 10 years (three generations).

Distribution and population

Coturnix japonica breeds in eastern Asia, including northern Mongolia, Sakhalin Island and the Baikal and Vitim regions of Russia, north-eastern China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. Some populations in Japan are resident, but most birds migrate south, wintering in southern China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bhutan and north-eastern India (del Hoyo et al. 1994). There are also introduced populations in Italy and Hawaii (USA). No reliable population estimate exists, and although the species was previously considered to be fairly common in China (del Hoyo et al. 1994), declines appear to have occurred in Laos (Duckworth 2009) and Japan (Okuyama 2004, H. Nagata in litt. 2009), and there are fears that the species has undergone a significant decline overall (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Duckworth 2009).


Behaviour This species is an annual migrant, although some populations in Japan are resident (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Egg-laying occurs from late April to early August in Russia, and late May to August in Japan. Clutch size is varied, with larger clutches in Russia (nine to ten) than in Japan (five to eight). The female is the sole incubator of the eggs (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Habitat Little is known about the preferred habitat of this species, although it is thought to prefer open habitats such as meadows, steppes, and dry mountain slopes near water. It has also been recorded in grassland and cultivated land (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Its diet is thought to include a wide variety of plant matter, and it will also take terrestrial invertebrates in summer (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


Specific threats to the species are unknown, although it may be threatened by agricultural change in Asia (Duckworth 2009). Hunting is a threat in Japan (Okuyama 2004), and is likely to be a threat elsewhere in its range.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are plans to introduce a ban on the hunting of the species in Japan (M. Okuyama in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Develop a monitoring scheme to establish population trends. Identify and assess the impacts of known and potential threats throughout its range.


Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Calvert, R.

Okuyama, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Coturnix japonica. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/japanese-quail-coturnix-japonica on 29/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 29/09/2023.