brown quail

I have had two intimate experiences with the little brown quail — intimate in the sense that they visited where I was living. First in the Waiotahi Valley where they would on occasions visit my garden, a highly dangerous place for them as I had cats in those days who thought them quite delectable. Usually the quail stuck to the tall fescue grass along the river which provided sufficient cover for them.

The second experience was when I lived at Godwit House overlooking Ohiwa Harbour. I could hear one calling there one autumn evening and attempted to imitate its call with the hope that it would reveal itself. It did. It called again very close by and suddenly it was virtually at my feet, turning an eye to me as if to say, “What are you about on my territory?” This male found a mate that winter and over the next few years I looked out for them, doing my best to see that my one pair would grow into a sizeable covy.

It is wonderful to live intimately with wildlife, wonderful to see the quail and their tiny bumblebee size chicks scuttling through the garden from one bush to the next, often peering skywards on the look out for harrier or falcon. They stuck close to the house, ascertaining that it was a safe place as I no longer had cats.

The brown quail are of course foreigners, introduced to New Zealand as game birds in the 1860s and 1870s but the South Island liberations failed and now they are common only north of Auckland and in parts of the Bay of Plenty. Their natural range is southern Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia. It has been mooted that a species of the Australian brown quail was also native to New Zealand but the introduction of stocks of the same species from Australia makes it difficult to confirm.

The brown quail are an overall brownish colour, finely patterned with black and when scuttling for cover may be mistaken for a rat. Rougher country is preferred with places to hide although, if pressed, will fly upwards with a whir of wings before landing in cover and quickly disappearing.

—  Wairarapa, 2005.

Sub Species:
australis, ypsilophorus.

Other common names:  — 

Description:  — 

Introduced bird

25 cm., 180 g., overall brownish colour, finely patterned with black.

Where to find:  — 

Northland and Bay of Plenty.

Illustration description: — 


Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1840-48.

Reference(s): — 


Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 


Monday, 2 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.