He handed over the box: “A rescued quail.” We volunteer at a wildlife hospital, so a safe assumption might be California Quail. But this bird clearly wasn’t. Their markings are distinct and easy once you know them. “It’s a Japanese Quail,” was the official proclamation.

Not only is a Japanese Quail not a native of California, he is, for the most part, a domesticated bird in the United States — raised for eggs or meat.  Coturnix japonica are also raised as game birds and released, just as hunters raise pheasant and grouse for the same purpose … to set free then shoot.

So this poor fellow neither qualifies for wildlife care, nor does he fall under the auspices of “farm” which might find him sanctuary with traditional farm animals. He’s considered exotic. There are vets who will see him and people who will adopt him. But his designation as a bird and immigrant in the U.S. is murky owing to existing constructs.

If you happen to find an injured domestic bird and bring it to a wildlife hospital, for the most part you’ll be on your own to find another resource. A humane society or knowledgeable vet is a better option, so call around if you’re in that position, and find someone who can help.

I took the quail with the expectation that he’d be going to a good home. A kind animal tech helped me out by giving Sir Quail an initial exam which showed that he’d had a fracture in his keel. But he was otherwise okay. A keel fracture can result from a strike of some kind or by the bird flying into something with enough impact to cause the injury. The best thing in this case was simply R&R.

The options for the quail then become: 1) return him where he was found, which, for him, was not an option since no one knew whence he came, 2) keep him as a domestic bird or pet, provided ordinances allow, 3) re-home him to a third party, 4) take him to a shelter where they accept exotic species, or 5) euthanize, depending on his condition. This lucky quail will be getting a new home where he won’t become a main dish.

This case of misidentification inspired me to post a few photos for those who haven’t seen a Japanese Quail. I hadn’t. In the wilds of the Bay Area, the most common quail we see are the California variety — clearly distinct from the Japanese. (I posted contrasting photos for anyone who hasn’t seen either species.)

The male Japanese Quail has redder coloration on his neck and breast, without the distinct black speckling of the female. The female (below) is more buff-colored on the breast, with clear black markings in the breast plumage.

Japanese Quail Coturnix Male

Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica) Male – ©ingridtaylar

I took this image of the California Quail as he tended to his mate and brood. A female and eight young quail were traipsing through scrub in the Marin headlands. The vigilant father remained as sentry, fluttering from high point to high point as his family traveled nearby.

Female Japanese Quail:

Japanese Quail Female

Japanese Quail Female – iStockphoto

Female California Quail:

California Quail Female

California Quail Female – iStockphoto