Imagen de una Perdiz Moruna


Quail once thrived in Tenerife, when cereal and pulse crops covered most of the land. Quails are migrating birds, although the island has a small resident population. The number of quail hunters has dwindled, owing to urbanization of the land and the disappearance of grass crops. They are expert hunters, however, and self-regulate their limited opportunities prudently.

Quail measure 18 centimetres and weigh around 100 grams. Their plumage is brown and ochre with dark streaks. Mature males have a dark line at the throat and a russet coloured chest. Mature females, by contrast, have a cream coloured throat with no dark feathers and a spotted chest. Chicks have the same plumage as the females.

Quails are hard to spot thanks to their mimetic plumage and their habit of keeping remarkably still. It is not easy to flush them so they can be observed, and therefore they are rarely seen. The striking call of the males makes them easier to detect in the mating season.


The best habitats for this species are grass crops when the kernels are forming, so they are ephemeral and last only a few days. These habitats are 200 to 1,200 metres above sea level and quail occupy them as the grasses develop and ripen. Tenerife is on quail's spring migration route, but we ignore whether they follow an autumn route when they return to Africa. Nor do we know whether quail travel from one island to another within the Canary Islands archipelago.

Quail do not move during the day, unless they are busy mating or caring for their chicks. Their activity and movement take place at twilight (at dawn and dusk), and they only fly at night.

Quail feed on small seeds, which they can consume in vast quantities in one day; medium-sized seeds, such as wheat; and even large seeds, like corn. They consume invertebrates voraciously in spring and summer, including snails, caterpillars, ants, spiders and grasshoppers. Quail are the prey of many reptile, bird and mammal predators. Rats are their biggest threat in Tenerife, because cereal-growing habitats are full of barnyards, buildings, storage places, drains and sewage systems where rats live. Rats prey on quail nests, chicks and adult quail. Released feral cats are another serious enemy of quail.

Social organisation and reproduction

Quail form small groups of three to four individuals to move about and explore a territory. Groups of males are the first to arrive in new areas in search of the best habitats for reproduction. The females arrive a few days later. The females choose the males they want to mate with, and they incubate the eggs and raise the chicks on their own. They can lay four to twelve eggs, but most common number is eight.

The chicks weight five to seven grams in the first days of life and are highly sensitive to any disturbance or attack. Most of them die while young. We find that sedentary Tenerife quail live longer than migrating quail. Habitats with irrigation, vegetable patches and summer crops permit quail to extend their reproductive period and increase the number of times they lay eggs in a single year.

Hunting management

Certain hunters and nature lovers have formed a group in Tenerife that works scientifically to protect, improve and make better use of the species. The group is recognised by the Council of Tenerife, the government of the Canary Islands, the Hunting Federation and the Consortium for the Controlled Hunting Zone. The group is carrying out a quail banding campaign to learn more about the species' movements, longevity, mortality, density and habitat use. They comb the island meticulously to find areas that still have a little bit of habitat that quail can use. The group completes the data on sample envelopes and collects biological samples to study the demography and characteristics of the quail populations. The quail team are exporting their methods and expanding to other islands in the archipelago. Similar efforts are now under way on the islands of El Hierro and Las Palmas, after several years of development in Tenerife.


FaLang translation system by Faboba