Friday mystery object #158 answer

On Friday I gave you this small bird skull to identify:

I though that the small size might lead you into thinking it was from a songbird – and there were a couple of you who were caught out by my cheap trick, with suggestions of Meadow Lark and Dunnock.

However, as you’ve probably worked out, it isn’t actually a songbird skull. Rhea misread the scale as being inches rather than centimetres and thought that this was a Chicken skull – which although wrong is in the right family (just a lot bigger!). The distinctive profile than Rhea spotted, combined with the small size meant that Ric Morris, palaeosam and Robin all managed to recognise this as the skull of a Quail. In this case it is a Common Quail Coturnix coturnix (Linnaeus, 1758).

Coturnix coturnix L. (1758) in Warsaw Zoo (Poland) by Guérin Nicolas

These tiny galliforms are secretive little things, keeping to the long grass and undergrowth and seldom flying unless they are undertaking their annual migration to Africa for the winter or returning for their summer breeding in Europe.

They feed on insects and seeds, hence the shape of their bill, which is very much like most other galliform birds that share a similar diet. Unlike other galliform birds they are small and have long wings, features that make them much better at flying than the other members of their family – not that they bother most of the time.


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