(Tetrao Coturnix, Linn.—La Caille, Buff.)
LENGTH seven inches and a half. Bill dusky; eyes hazel; the colours of the head, neck, and back are a mixture of brown, ash, and black; over each eye there is a yellowish streak, extending behind the auriculars, and another of the same over the middle of the forehead to the nape; a dark lines passes from each corner of the bill, forming a kind of divided gorget about the throat; the scapular feathers are marked by a light yellowish streak down the middle of each; quills lightish brown, with small rust-coloured bands on the exterior edges of the feathers; the breast is pale rusty, spotted with black, and streaked with pale yellow; the tail consists of twelve feathers, barred like the wings; belly and thighs yellowish white: legs pale brown. The female wants the black spots on the breast, and is easily distinguished by a less vivid plumage.
Quails are very generally diffused throughout Asia, Africa, and the southern parts of Europe, but rare in temperate climates; they are birds of passage, and are seen in immense flocks flying across the Mediterranean, from Europe to the shores of Africa, in the autumn, and returning again in the spring, frequently alighting in their passage on the intervening islands, particularly of the Archipelago, which they almost cover with their numbers. On the western coasts of the kingdom of Naples such prodigious numbers have appeared, than an hundred thousand have been taken in a day within the space of four or five miles. From these circumstances it appears highly probable, that the Quails which supplied the Israelites with food, during their journey through the wilderness, were driven thither on their passage to the north, by a wind from the south-west, sweeping over Ethiopia and Egypt towards the shores of the Red Sea. Quails are not very numerous here; they breed with us, and many of them are said to remain through out the year, changing their quarters from the interior to the sea coast. The female makes her nest like the Partridge, and lays to the number of six or seven* eggs of a greyish colour, speckled with brown. The young birds follow the mother as soon as hatched, but do not continue long together; they are scarcely grown up before they separate; or, if kept together, they fight obstinately, their quarrels frequently terminating in each other's destruction. From this quarrelsome disposition in the Quail they were made use of by the Greeks and Romans as we use Game-cocks, for the purpose of fighting. We are told that Augustus punished a prefect of Egypt with death, for bringing to his table one of these birds, which had acquired celebrity by its victories. The Chinese are much addicted to the amusement of fighting Quails, and in some parts of Italy it is said likewise to be no unusual practice. After feeding two Quails very highly, they place them opposite, and throw in a few grains of seeds between them; the birds rush upon each other with the utmost fury, striking with their bills and heels till one of them yields.
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