British wildlife recordings
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Wimborne, Dorset: OS Grid Reference(401500,100500)
Advertising call of the male quail, recorded at Winbourne, Devon. The quail is a secretive bird that rarely leaves cover during the breeding season, and is more often heard than seen. It is the only migratory British game bird, arriving from Africa in late April, before returning south in autumn. The quail resembles a tiny partridge, with yellowish-brown streaked upperparts and paler underparts. The favoured habitat of the quail is that of open country such as grassland or large cereal fields such as those found on chalk downland. The quail's diet consists of seeds from a variety of plants such as docks, goosefoot species, and poppies, as well as insect larvae, beetles, and grasshoppers. The distinctive call sounds like 'whit-whit-whit' or 'wet-my-lips', but the location is hard to pin down as the male seemingly throws its voice like a ventriloquist. A breeding pair is capable of producing a brood of between six to eighteen chicks and the young stay with the adults for up to 50 days before becoming independent. Approximately 500 birds are heard calling each summer from scattered locations across England, Wales, and south-east Scotland. Protected across Europe, the quail has declined drastically due to agricultural intensification on its breeding grounds, hunting on migration and droughts in its wintering grounds.
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