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What is a Buttonquail?

Mandi Rogier
Mandi Rogier

The buttonquail, or button quail, is a type of small game bird that is often kept as a pet. This species of bird is also known as the Chinese painted quail, Asian blue quail, or coturnix chinensis. They are native to China and southeastern Asia but can now be found all over the world in captivity.

Buttonquails are originally brown in color, with the males sporting a black and white bib. This bib makes him more colorful than the female and easy to distinguish. Over time, however, these birds have been bred with a variety of mutated colors including silver, white, and gray. In these hues, the sexes are more similar in appearance.


The female buttonquail is slightly larger than the male, averaging about five inches (12.7 cm), in length. The males are about four and a half inches (11.4 cm) long. This relatively small size makes these birds ideal as pets. They can live more than four years in captivity.

When kept with other birds, this species serves as an excellent “housekeeper.” It walks on the floor of the cage, as opposed to flying or perching. Seeds spilled by other birds in the cage will be readily eaten by the buttonquail. It will walk and run about on the bottom of the cage, and any food or toys provided for it must be kept at this level.

Although the buttonquail does not perch on branches, it can take flight. A common problem for keepers of this type of bird is their tendency to pop up in the air when startled. Some owners will clip one or both wings to minimize this problem. The top of the birds’ cage should be covered in a soft material or made of fabric to keep them from getting injured when they jump up.

Pet owners who are interested in keeping more than one of this bird face a challenge in finding the proper combination of males and females. A single pair, or a group of only females is often the easiest solution. Males will be aggressive with one another if there is more than one in the same confined space. A male that is kept without a female may crow excessively.

Content buttonquails tend to make only quiet, unobtrusive sounds. They click, chirp, and make a characteristic “pee pee pew” call. Provided with a roomy cage, nutritious feed comprised of gamebird pellets, mealworm, fruits, and vegetables, clean water, and hiding spaces, these birds can be kept healthy and happy as a relatively low-maintenance pet.

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