Quails are a type of bird commonly found in North America, and one of the most popular game birds around. But did you know that they are steadily becoming popular as livestock? It’s true.
Because of their small size and hardiness, quails are an excellent choice for small homesteaders who may find even chickens to be too much.
Quail are small and plump, almost pudgy, with short wings and stout bodies. Due to their physical characteristics, many people wonder if these birds can fly. So, can quails fly?
Yes, quails can fly, but the duration and distance of their flights are limited. Quail can usually only stay in the air for a few minutes, and rarely travel more than a couple hundred yards away. Quail typically only fly when startled or frightened by a predator.
Quail are notably for being predominately ground-dwelling birds even though they have the ability to fly. They often prefer to run or hide rather than take flight.
But as far as their keepers are concerned, quail fly more than well enough to hop even a tall fence and make a run for it! You’ll need to account for this if you want to keep quail contained.
I will tell you more about quail and their flight tendencies below…
Are Quails Strong Fliers?
Compared to other birds, no. Most quail species, like the bobwhite quail, aren’t strong fliers and prefer to run along the ground as their primary means of locomotion and evasion.
But, quail can fly fast when they need to: quails are known for their short, frantic and rapid bursts of flight, which allows them to escape predators while moving through dense foliage.
However, quails are primarily ground-dwelling birds and are accordingly adapted more for running on the ground than for flying.
At What Age Can a Quail Start Flying?
Quail start flying at just two weeks old, or maybe a few days earlier. However, just because they can fly at two weeks doesn’t mean they are independent yet; they will usually hang around home for a couple more weeks before leaving out on their own.
How Far Can Quails Fly?
The distance that quails can fly varies among species and depends on several factors, such as their weight and overall physical condition.
Some species of quail, such as the Gambel’s quail and the California quail, are strong fliers but have low endurance, gliding back to the ground a hundred yards away after a frantic initial climb. Other species can fly a couple hundred yards in a pinch.
Few North American quail species can sustain the flight for more than a few minutes at a time, and so usually only fly as far as they nearest safe spot to escape danger or reach nearby perches or roosting spots.
How Do Quails Fly?
Quails have a distinctive flight pattern that involves short, rapid bursts of flight, often close to the ground.
When forced to flight, their takeoff is startling, almost explosive: launching straight up, they rapidly beat their wings to gain altitude, then glide or flap continuously for short distances before landing again.
A quail’s wings are relatively small and rounded, allowing for quick and agile movements. They can also fly through dense foliage and brush by tucking their wings close to their body and darting through small openings, a common escape tactic.
During flight, quails often make distinct whistling, chattering, or chirping sounds, which can alert other quails to potential danger or help locate their mates or flock.
This sudden, explosive launch and immediate dash is what makes quail so appealing to bird hunters; the window of opportunity for engaging a quail is very short!
Will Your Quail Fly Away if You Let Them Free-Range?
Yes! Quail are not like chickens in this regard. Aside from being able, fast fliers, quail don’t have a homing instinct that they associate with their coop or shelter.
Whereas chickens typically only go so far away and make an attempt to return to their home and flock, if a quail gets spooked or is just feeling adventurous they will fly away (or run away). If that happens, they will not come back.
Accordingly, you must take all reasonable precautions to keep that from happening if you raise quail.
Can Quail Get Away if You Have Them Fenced In?
Yes. Quail prefer to stay on the ground and run around, but they can and will fly when needed! If your quail want out, there is not fence that will contain them.
Compared to most other birds, quail are not good fliers. But compared to poultry like chickens and turkeys, quail are superb fliers!
Your quail can take off from the ground at will and quickly reach surprising heights, which makes it effectively impossible to truly contain them in any uncovered area.
How Can You Contain Your Quails?
That being said, there are ways to keep your quail contained: a higher fence with a soft covering is best. This will prevent quail from giving you the slip.
But, it is essential that any covering be soft and flexible to cushion the birds should they fly into it, yet strong enough to keep predators out. This issue is more complex than it sounds at first.
Concerning your quail, it is imperative that the covering be soft, flexible and at least 8 feet or so off the ground.
Why? Because quail, when startled, rocket straight up and do so instinctively. Fast, and hard. If they smash into anything that is too low, or that won’t absorb impact, they can get a head injury or even break their neck. Poor things!
This is why a typical chicken coop is a bad idea for quail; they need a structure with a taller roof to be safe!
The second factor is that damn near every predator out there likes to eat quail, eat quail eggs, and eat quail chicks. It is worse for them than chickens!
In fact, the single most rapacious predator of quail is actually the “domestic” cat. Whether or not they are pets out for some fun or feral felines that are just reverting to the law of the jungle, if cats have any chance of reaching your quail, they will and they will kill them.
So, keep them safe with a sturdy fence and cover that can’t be clawed or ripped open, climbed over, or snuck under.
In the end, it is possible to contain quail but you must take their quirks into account.
Can You Clip a Quail’s Wings?
Yes, you can, and for many quail keepers, this is absolutely mandatory to keep their feathered friends contained and protected from injury.
However, it’s important to understand that this is a serious undertaking that requires knowledge and skill. It’s not something you can do by the seat of your pants or without adequate preparation.