Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 10

10 | PET GAZETTE | AVIAN CHINESE PAINTED QUAIL - THE BIRD KEEPERS’ FRIEND AND COMIC In this issue, John Courteney-Smith profi les the small bird with a big personality T he Chinese Painted Quail, also known as ‘Button Quail’ has, over the years, become a fi rm favourite with those of us that have aviaries or indoor fl ights. This is a diminutive bird with a huge, rather comical and altogether endearing personality. Its small size, practical use and relative ease of care equate to this bird being the perfect addition for almost every bird keeper and a good choice for a species kept in-store. The Chinese Painted Quail (CPQ) for has been kept within aviculture for a very long time. On the whole, they can become quite interactive and comical companion pets if the keeper has the correct type of enclosure and can provide for their core needs. They also play a very useful role as an active aviary ‘custodian’ when kept within a larger collection, helping to clean up spilt seed. This is a species that occurs over much of southeast Asia where they inhabit warm grass and scrublands. This is a ground dwelling species that requires a safe home with plenty of cover. This will reduce stressors and help to keep the birds safe from accidental harm. This is a tiny but hardy bird that can produce a quite staggering number of eggs and young over its lifetime; they are adaptive, well designed and able to thrive pretty much in any climate. Having said that, great care should be taken to protect them from searing heat and likewise frosts. Adequate and well-designed coops can be bought or made to provide them with the shelter that they will need in these times. CPQ are robust but small birds. The hens tend to be a little larger and heavier than the cocks and will reach approximately 4 ½” -5”. The cock bird is equally proportioned and 4- 4 ½” from beak to tail. This is a dimorphic species, as such we are able to differentiate the sexes very easily by sight. The hen of this species, within the natural colour form are well marked in bands of tawny browns, cream and sable - perfect camoufl age when nesting in dried grasses or scrubland. The hen also shows a rather muted form of the black stripes across the cheek that are so prominent for the cock bird. The cock bird is dressed rather formally in a steel grey or blue breast and wing covers with mottled brown back. He has a stark white ring around the throat which is topped by a black tie. Above the central black line under the chin and around the face there is another white patch that arcs around the cheek to the ear and draws as a line between the bottom of the eye and the top of the beak. There is one further straight black line running through the centre of the upper white section. The cock bird can also display browns or even conker reds around the underparts around the belly. In both sexes the feet are yellow and pink. There are a number of quite common colour mutations within this now quite domesticated species. I myself prefer the natural colour form, but also have a fondness for the silver. Indeed, some keepers and breeders are quite adept at producing colour mutations and will base whole collections within the search for new mutations. This is a robust but rather nervous bird, especially when fi rst introduced to a new home. They can glide, but fl y poorly, typical panic behaviour involves the bird erupting directly upwards while calling. This in of itself, was a major cause of captive harm in the old days when it was common to keep a pair even in large breeding fl ight cages. The birds would erupt from the fl oor and injure their heads on the top of the cage. As such, great care should be taken to ensure that this species has easy access to plenty of areas to escape and that they are not kept in fl ights with low roofs. Both birds strut as they walk, darting from here to there in a ‘funny walk’. They are active and inquisitive, if not a little shy around new items placed within the living area; even new food items can be treated with suspicion. Usually however the cock will become overcome with nosiness and soon fi nd that the items poses no harm, it may even be quite tasty. Like most poultry, this is a species that benefi ts greatly from a deep layer of natural, mineral rich soil in which it can scrape, forage and bathe. They will also bathe in water if a shallow dish is provided. A natural soil substrate can help greatly within the procurement of natural minerals. However, it is vital that full-spectrum natural base minerals including freely available calcium are available within the diet also. Grits, oyster shell, cuttle bone and iodine blocks must be provided well and at intervals around the fl ight and at a level that these ground dwelling birds can reach. This is an opportunistic feeder, scratching and foraging well over much of the day, they will feast on a multitude of seeds, fruits, March 2019