quail defined in 1930 yearquail - Quail;
quail - Head mottled with black and reddish brown, with three parallel, longitudinal, yellowish streaks; upper parts ash-brown variegated with black and straw-colour; neck reddish yellow, with a double crescent of dusky brown; breast pale reddish brown streaked with white; bill and feet yellowish brown. Length, eight inches. Female: paler, and wanting the double crescent on the neck.
The quail is a summer visitor to this country, arriving in May. It is nowhere a common bird, although widely distributed, and it has been found breeding in most parts of the British Islands. Occasionally it is met with in winter, most often in Ireland. Immediately after its arrival the call of the male is heard morning and evening, a shrill, piping note of three syllables, supposed to resemble the words wet my lips, or wet my feet, according to the hearer's fancy. This call is repeated again and again, with some slight variation in the sound. The nest is a slight hollow scratched in b corn-field, among grass or clover, and the eggs number seven or eight to twelve, and even a larger number is sometimes found. They are speckled and blotched with umber-brown on a yellowish white ground. Two broods are reared in the season. The quail prefers open, rough grass country to cultivated land. Its food consists of seeds, grain, and insects.
The quail is in appearance a very small partridge, being little more than half the size of that bird. It is singular that in the very limited number of gallinaceous birds that exist wild in this country there should be included the capercaillie, the largest of the order, with, perhaps, the exception of one American species, and the diminutive quail - a giant and a pigmy.
Historically, the small species is the more important of the two. He is a Bible bird, and was as familiar as the eagle and the crane to the civilised nations of antiquity in Asia and Africa, where letters and arts had their origin, when the great wood-grouse was known only to the barbarians of Europe.
When we consider how bound to earth (like our unfortunate selves) the gallinaceous birds are, seldom using their wings, unless to escape from some sudden, pressing danger into the nearest cover, it strikes us as very wonderful that the plump little quail should be as great a migrant as the most aerial kinds - the swallows and the warblers. When with us in the summer he is a dweller on the ground, an earth-lover, like his stay-at-home relation, the partridge; yet in his wide wanderings he crosses seas, vast deserts, and the loftiest mountain chains; and by means of this migratory instinct he has diffused himself over the three great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
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