Chinese Painted Quail

(Coturnix chinensis)

Button Quail, Dan Cowell

The tiny Chinese Painted Quail, widely known as the Button Quail, is one of the most widely kept and smallest of all game bird species. They are popular with cage and aviary bird enthusiasts, who use this species to "clean-up" seed spilled by hookbills or finches. You will also see this species in many pet stores, perhaps due to their small, cute size, they are very popular as pet birds.

Button Quail, also known as the Asian Blue Quail, Blue-breasted or King Quail, are found from India and southern China south through Indonesia into New Guinea and northeast Australia in 10 subspecies. It is believed that most birds in US aviculture are from the nominate subspecies, C. c. chinensis. There are also many color mutations that have been developed in captivity. Little is known of their habits and status in the wild.

Males are overall dark brownish-blue with a white and black face and throat. The breast is lighter bluish-gray, with a chestnut-red belly. The feet are yellow, bill is black. Hens are mottled brown overall and lack the white and black markings on the face and throat.


Button Quail are easy to raise in both cages and aviaries. They will breed year-round if kept under lights. In larger cages or aviaries, one can allow the hen to set and incubate her own eggs. Since the chicks are so tiny, ensure that the wire has some type of barrier or protection to keep the chicks from escaping. When kept in an aviary, care must be taken when walking around when caring for the birds. The hens will make a nest under grasses and you must be careful not step on the tiny birds. The hens are very good mothers and it is an entertaining sight to see a mother with a brood of tiny chicks in the aviary.

Incubation period is 16 days and the chicks grow quickly. You will need to make sure the waterers for the chicks are small or place some marbles in the fount to make sure they do not get in and drown. The marbles also encourage the artificially reared chicks to drink and find the water, as they are attracted to the shiny colors of the marbles.

As mentioned, you can house these little birds with a number of cage birds. We currently house our quail with a variety of finch species in outdoor aviaries during the warmer months and in smaller indoor avaires during the colder months. They feed on a mixture of finch diet and game bird breeder mash. They are supplemented with mealworms, spray millet and various greens.

Button Quail are known to fly straight up when startled. To prevent the birds from injuring themselves, clip the flight feathers or place a piece of foam padding on the inside top of the transport cage.

The most common of the mutations, and perhaps the first developed, is the Silver. Silvers are marked like the wild type, but the overall color has been replaced with a light gray or silver (see images below). Another common mutation is the White, which is completely white with no markings. Many of the newer mutations are described on Garrie Landry's page on Button Quail Mutations. Some of the mutations you can see photographs are the Blue Face, Cinnamon/Fawn, Golden Pearl, Red Breasted and the Splashed.


Click on thumbnails for larger views.

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Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-2, Dan Cowell.

Bibliography and Further Reading


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