Quails breed in a wide area covering continental Europe, western Asia and parts of Africa. The European breeding population moves south in winter to the western Mediterranean basin or to the Sahel, the arid steppe area to the south of the Sahara. They are the only migratory gamebird species found in Britain, in numbers that can vary greatly from year to year. The reasons for these variations are poorly understood though it has been suggested that invasions occur in years with warm dry springs and predominantly southeasterly winds. Bird Atlas 2007-2011 recorded a 103% increase in breeding distribution since the publication of the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas though given the year to year fluctuations, some caution is needed in interpreting these figures.
    Quails nest mainly in long grass or cereal crops on calcareous soils so not surprisingly Wiltshire has long been one of their traditional breeding areas, with Salisbury Plain and the Marlborough Downs being the main strongholds. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them present in 139 tetrads, in 23 of which breeding was confirmed or probable. Fieldwork between 2007 and 2012 for WTA2 found them in 124 tetrads, with breeding again confirmed or probable in 23.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.