The Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, is a migratory, gallineous, ground dwelling game bird native to east Asia and Japan. They were first domesticated in the eleventh century as songbirds by the emperors of Japan. By 1910, their meat and eggs had become popular food items in that country. Different strains were developed for either meat or egg production (apart from the varieties that were bred for song types).
During the next three decades, there was a large increase in quail meat, and egg production in Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. During World War II, because of food shortages, the songbirds were no longer kept by the palace and were completely lost. Even the production birds suffered a severe loss in numbers. After the war, new domestication and importation of domestic birds from China expanded domestic Japanese quail stocks. Hundred years back, there have been several stocking attempts at establishing Japanese quail as a game bird in North America. None were successful however, except for a 1921 release on the Hawaiian Islands. The birds established themselves on the islands and the population is now open for hunting. In the past few decades, the meat and eggs of Japanese quail have become popular in Europe and the Middle East. Today, quail meat is consumed in North America as gourmet food items. Quail meat is becoming a popular and regular part of the Canadian diet. In the late 1950's, the potential usefulness of Japanese quail, as a research animal, began to be recognized.
There are two species of quail in India; the black-breasted quail found in jungle (Coturnix Coromandelica) and the brown-coloured Japanese Quail (Coturnix Japonica) which is bred for meat or the one used for commercial Quail production. There are 45 species of quail. Although the Japanese quail is the largest species, it is much smaller then pigeon. While Indian quail weighs up to 100 gm and lays 100 eggs a year, the Japanese quail weighs up to 300 gm and lays 240 eggs a year.
The morphology of the Japanese quail differs depending on its stage in life. As chicks, both male and female individuals exhibit the same kind of plumage and coloring. Their heads are tawny in color, with small black patches littering the area above the beak. The wings and the back of the chicks are a pale brown, the back also having four brown stripes running along its length. A pale yellow-brown stripe surrounded by smaller black stripes runs down the top of the head. The plumage of the Japanese quail is sexually dimorphic, allowing for differing sexes to be distinguished from one another. Both male and female adults exhibit predominantly brown plumage. However, markings on the throat and breast, as well as the particular shade of brown of the plumage, can vary quite a bit. The breast feathers of females are littered with dark spots among generally pale feathers. Contrastingly, male breast feathers show off a uniform dark reddish-brown color that is devoid of any dark spots. This reddish brown coloration also appears in the male cheek, while female cheek feathers are more cream colored. Some males also exhibit the formation of a white collar, whereas this does not occur in any female members of the species. It is important to note that while this coloration is very typical of wild populations of Coturnix japonica, domestication and selective breeding of this species has resulted in numerous different strains exhibiting a variety of plumage colors and patterns.
The diet of the Japanese quail includes many different types of grass seed such as white millet and panicum. They also feed upon a variety of insects, their larvae, and other small invertebrates. The Japanese quail mainly eats and drinks at the beginning and end of the day, this behavior shown to closely follow the photoperiod. However, they will still perform these actions throughout the day as well.
The type of relationship exhibited between male and female members of Coturnix japonica has returned mixed reports, as they have been seen to exhibit both monogamous and polygamous relationships. Study of domesticated specimens reveals that females tend to bond with one to two males, though extra-pair copulations are also frequently observed. The Japanese quail exhibits a quite distinct and specific mating ritual. First, the male will grab the neck of the female and mount her. After mounting the female, the male will extend his cloaca by curving his back in an attempt to initiate cloacal contact between him and the female. If cloacal contact is achieved, insemination of the female will be exhibited by distinguishable foam present in the female's cloaca. After successfully mating with a female, it is characteristic of the male to perform a distinctive strut. Females can either facilitate the mating attempts of the male by remaining still and squatting in order to ease the access of the male to her cloaca. Or, she can impede the attempts of the male by standing tall and running away from the mounting male. Females can also induce the initial sexual interactions by walking in front of a male and crouching. Males acting aggressively toward a female during the mating ritual have been shown to reduce successful mating. Eggs tend to be laid in the few hours preceding dusk. Incubation of the egg starts as soon as the last egg in the clutch is laid and lasts an average of 16.5 days. Japanese quail females carry out most of the incubation of the eggs, becoming increasingly intolerant of the male throughout the incubation process. Eventually, the female will drive away the male before the eggs hatch. Thus, the females also provide all of the parental care to the newly hatched young. Egg weight, color, shape, and size can vary greatly among different females of the Japanese quail population; however, these characteristics are quite specific and consistent for any one given female. Eggs are generally mottled with a background color ranging from white to blue to pale brown. Depending on which strain of the Japanese quail one examines, eggs can weight anywhere from 8 to 13 grams, though the accepted average weight is 10 grams. Age seems to play a role on the size of eggs produced as older females tend to lay larger eggs than their younger counterparts
BENEFITS OF QUAIL EGGS:
Quail eggs are packed with vitamins and minerals. Even with their small size, their nutritional value is three to four times greater than chicken eggs. Quail eggs contain 13 percent proteins compared to 11 percent in chicken eggs. Quail eggs also contain 140 percent of vitamin B1 compared to 50 percent in chicken eggs. In addition, quail eggs provide five times as much iron and potassium. Unlike chicken eggs, quail eggs have not been know to cause allergies or diathesis. Actually they help fight allergy symptoms due to the ovomucoid protein they contain. Regular consumption of quail eggs helps fight against many diseases. They are a natural combatant against digestive tract disorders such as stomach ulcers. Quail eggs strengthen the immune system, promote memory health, increase brain activity and stabilize the nervous system. They help with anemia by increasing the level of hemoglobin in the body while removing toxins and heavy metals. The Chinese use quail eggs to help treat tuberculosis, asthma, and even diabetes. If you are a sufferer of kidney, liver, or gallbladder stones quail eggs can help prevent and remove these types of stones.