Quails belong to the family Phasianidae. These are rotund, short-tailed granivorous birds looking like miniature partridges, which in fact they are. The two most common species in India are the Grey Quail and the Rain Quail, along with the Bush Quails, are prized as game birds. They are mostly resident, but in winter a vast influx of migrant Grey Quails from northern countries augments the local population. They spend their time hidden in crops, grassland or bushes in scattered pairs or coveys, and are seldom seen except when accidentally flushed or when put up by beaters or dogs for sport.
These birds are very small in size and feed on seeds, insects and small prey. They dwell on the ground and are able to fly short distances. Some of the species however, are migratory and can fly long distances. Some of the Quails are also farmed in huge numbers.
Quails fly, when attacked, low over the crops and soon dive into cover again. Bush Quails have a disconcerting habit of squatting huddled together under a bush until almost stepped upon, the covey then exploding with a startling whirl, the individuals dispersing in all directions. Up to a few years ago large numbers of quail were netted by professional poachers and openly sold in markets and restaurants. The present game laws have curbed the practice some what, but their numbers had dropped dangerously and it may take years of protection to restore the population of Quails.
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