The quail is one of the most well known small game birds and can be found in many varieties on every continent but Antarctica.
Hounds flushing a covey of these birds from the underbrush is a classic hunting scene, whilst there are just as many who would rather feed the quails, but what do quails eat?
Most of the time, quails are granivores, meaning that they subsist almost entirely on grains and seeds but this entirely depends on the time of the year.
Even when grains and seeds are plentiful, a small percentage of the bird’s diet will still consist of insects and leafy greens.
During the breeding season, the percentage of insects eaten increases to as much as 60-69%, as the birds seek out as much protein as they can get.
Later in the year, when seeds are less prevalent, these birds will turn towards the leafy greens and small fruits within their reach to augment their diets.
So while sometimes it is a granivore, overall it is omnivorous. Yet, within these broad categories of feed, this ground-nesting bird has its preferences.
Seeds and Grains
Outside of their spring nesting season, seeds and grains make up the majority of a quail’s diet. This determines their choice of habitat, in or near fields with seeding grass, crops, and shrubs.
Quails have a preference for hard seeds, and they are picky when it comes to size and uniformity of their feed. It’s no surprise, then, that they are fans of all the most common grain crops.
Quail prefer to eat the dried and hardened grains that are on the ground. It’s common to find a covey scratching and pecking at the ground under the cover of the following grain crops.
List of Grains Quails Eat
When readily available, such fare provides them with all the vitamins and minerals they require — when they are not raising chicks.
Nutritional Benefits of Grains to Quails
- Healthy Fats
- Vitamin A
- Vitamins B-6, B-7, B-12
- Vitamin C
Additionally, this type of feed contains a variety of amino acids that help to reduce inflammation and illness.
Some seeds, such as flax and sunflower seeds, are rich in oils that sustain feather health and waterproofing.
Other Seeds Quails Eat
Quail are not limited to grain crops. They will eat the seeds of forbs, which are more commonly referred to as herbs or weeds, depending on how useful they are to humans.
The seeds of various grasses make a good meal, as well. As long as the seeds are the right size, shape, and consistency, these game birds are game to try them.
List of Plant Seeds That Quails Eat:
- Annual Broomweed
- Snow on the Mountain
- Cowpen Daisy
- Texas Croton
- Plains Bristlegrass
Many of these plants are not only sources of food, but also provide camouflage and protection. The Buffalo-bur in particular is an example of the thorny brush that quails favor.
Leafy Greens and Other Vegetables
When seeds become scarce, quail turn to the plants themselves to fulfil their dietary needs. That’s not to say they eat the same plants that furnish their favourite seeds, however.
When it comes to flowers and greens, quail naturally prefer those low to the ground, with the most nutritious bits within their reach.
List of Flowers & Greens That Quails Eat:
- Red Maids
Foraging these plants allows quail to maintain balanced nutrition in the absence of their main food source. Leafy greens contain many of the same vitamins and minerals as seeds.
There are tradeoffs, however, particularly when it comes to fat and protein content.
Leafy greens contain practically no fat, and scant protein, which makes them unsuitable as the mainstay of a quail’s diet.
On the upside, these plants have a higher vitamin A, C, D, and K content than most seeds. The process of photosynthesis creates additional amino acids and compounds within these plants, such as:
- Biotin: Helps maintain feather and skin health.
- Choline: Facilitates cell growth and metabolic functions.
- Inositol: Helps manage cholesterol levels and regulate sleep.
- Bioflavonoids: A class of powerful antioxidants that provide resistance to disease and illness.
Leafy greens and vegetables rarely account for more than 10-15% of a quail’s diet and are often much lower than that.
Quail like the occasional salad, but for their entrees they prefer more substantial fare.
Insects and Invertebrates
During the breeding season, you would be forgiven for believing that quails are actually insectivores.
From April-June, while they are building their nests and rearing their chicks, invertebrates make up over 60% of their total diet.
List of Invertebrates That Quails Eat:
This isn’t unusual among birds. The egg-laying process is energy-intensive, and, once hatched, the chicks need protein more than anything else for their development.
Seeds and grains do offer some protein, but plant protein is incomplete. Only a certain percentage of it can be usefully metabolized, varying between different species.
The protein contained in invertebrates is complete, which is the main draw. However, these creeping critters can be rich in vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and all those from the B-group.
They also contain trace amounts of useful minerals, like calcium, iron, potassium, and copper. For a quail to reap these benefits, they need to eat a variety of invertebrates.
This allows both the preening parent and chirping child to avoid nutritional deficits on the journey from hatchling to juvenile.
Berries and Other Fruits
Like vegetables, fruits are not usually the first choice for quail.
Yet, in territories and times where the greatest nutrition can be gained from these sweet bits of plant flesh, quail won’t hesitate to fill their beaks.
As with other categories of food, these ground feeders prefer options that are down on their level. This isn’t limited to fruits that grow close to the ground.
Whatever falls to the earth is a potential meal.
List of Fruits and Berries That Quail Eat:
- Dragon Fruit
- Prickly Pear
The fructose in fruit provides the sort of ready energy that can fuel this bird’s active metabolism, and the moisture in the juice can keep them hydrated.
That sugar is a double-edged sword, however, as it doesn’t take too much to pose an issue to a bird’s health.
Luckily, the risk of developing diabetes is very low in wild birds, as they naturally favour fat as their energy source, and quickly burn off the carbs they consume.
Berries are often ranked among superfoods for humans, and many of their nutritional benefits are applicable to quail.
They have very high vitamin content, particularly vitamin C and K, and are decent sources of fibre.
The extract of blackberries is considered to be an antibacterial agent, meaning it could keep unhealthy bacteria from forming in a quails crop.
Their antioxidants are credited with improved mental function and immune system performance.
Huckleberries are packed with antioxidants, second only to lingonberries. They help with muscle formation, preserving eyesight, preventing cancer, and more.
All these benefits come in a small, quail-friendly package.
The effects are potent enough that at least some of them are conferred through the tiny percentage of fruits and berries these birds actually consume.
Nuts and Legumes
Quail tend to enjoy nuts, and it’s easy to see why. The interior flesh is rich in fat and protein, with the hardness and texture that these birds enjoy.
But nuts are big, and the thicker shells can pose a problem for the small beaks of quail. They are most likely to feed on acorns in the wild, which are relatively easy to get into.
Broken nut pieces from the meals of squirrels and other animals are prime pickings.
List of Nuts That Quail Eat:
- Hickory Nuts
Tree nuts tend to have a low carb to fat ratio, and fair protein. They have decent amounts of vitamin and mineral content, similar to that of grains.
Shelled and broken into small pieces, they can make a meal very similar to grains and seeds. For this reason, they are often a part of quail feed mixtures for farm-raised animals.
Peanuts are much more nutrient-dense than tree nuts, however.
The fat content is very high, which could result in obesity in birds fed mainly on these legumes, but makes them an attractive feed-in colder months.
What Do Quail Chicks Eat?
Quail chicks eat insects exclusively, which makes the sudden change in the adult’s diet during the breeding season all the more understandable.
Between 7-14 eggs are in a clutch, meaning quail parents have many mouths to feed.
Luckily, the chicks are quickly capable of feeding themselves, but mom makes sure to provide them with protein-rich meals.
All the insects and invertebrates that the adult quail eat, their young can also eat. In captivity, this diet may be simulated with high protein pellets or other formulated feed.
The Quail is another example of an intelligent and adaptable bird species.
Whether in captivity or in the wild, these birds have the instinctual knowledge of what food is best for not only themselves but for the continuance of their species.
F.A.Q’s – Popular Quail Diet Searches…
Do Quails Eat Grass?
Yes, Quails can eat grass and it can be added to an existing healthy diet made up of leafy green vegetables and small amounts of fruit.
Fresh grass also provides additional water to help keep your quail hydrated and healthy.
Can Quails Eat Bread?
To answer the question, do quails eat bread? then, yes, quails can and will eat bread. However, most types of bread are of low nutritional value, especially white bread.
There are healthier options of food types that you can buy or use to feed quails instead of bread such as; oats, barley, wheat and broken rice.
Can Quails Eat Spinach?
Yes, quails can eat spinach and it should be washed, chopped and fed to them together with other finely chopped pieces of leafy green vegetables.
Other tasty vegetables that quails will eat are; broccoli, cabbage leaves, lettuce and peas.
Can Quails Eat Uncooked Rice?
Yes, quails love to eat uncooked rice. Most birds will eat rice but unfortunately, it has a bad name as being bad for birds. This is incorrect! Birds have been eating rice for years…
As with all birds, you may get some birds that choose not to eat rice just out of preference.
Can Quails Eat Strawberries?
Yes, quails will and can eat strawberries and they are quite a favourite amongst quails. Strawberries can be bought and stored frozen which makes them ideal as a treat all year round.
To give your quail a varied and healthy diet you can mix the strawberries with other popular and delicious fruits such as; blackberries, raspberries and huckleberries.