He was misidentified but not forgotten — this lone Japanese Quail who fluttered his way into a wildlife hospital and then, into our hands and hearts. We gave him an appropriately Japanese name: “Mikiko” which, loosely translated, means “child of the tree.” A fellow volunteer pointed out that he is not, in fact, a child of the tree — “he’s a quail, Ingrid.”

I know. But I couldn’t find a name meaning “child of the shrub or scrub.” And I don’t have a command of kanji characters to create a name from scratch. A Japanese friend suggested “Aiko” — child of love. So Mikiko Aiko it became in full, “Kiko” in short.

Japanese Quail - Coturnix Japonica

Mikiko & His Carrier

So, for the past week or so, he’s been Sir Mikiko, Coturnix exemplar, in need of and searching for a loving home where he can be reunited with his own kind … and have a bit of room to flap around and be … well … a bona fide quail.

I’ve had the privilege to meet a network of exceptional and caring individuals who’ve helped us find compassionate sanctuary for the little guy. So in a few days, with bittersweetness tainting my heart, we’ll send Mikiko off with good wishes and grateful goodbyes for the moments we’ve had in learning and adapting to his quail-ish ways.

Here’s what we now know (and love) about Japanese Quail:

  1. Dust baths. Mikiko couldn’t be happier than when he’s kicking the sod out of the dust bath we put in his cage. The day we brought in the sand and peat, our little friend’s life changed from desperation to utter joy. I should have known. We’ve seen chickens do the same, clucking away their social time in communal dust clouds. Here’s a shot of him, lounging in his makeshift bath.
  2. Mikiko's Dust Bath

    Mikiko's Dust Bath

  3. Quail talk. Their sounds can range from a parrot-like squawk to a warble of a greeting. Males are known to crow, but it’s not so much a crow from my estimate, as it is a loud chirp. It’s staccato and sweet — not incessant. And it can be insistent or salutatory.

    –> Click to hear a male quail call

    When Mikiko is happy, he runs uttering the barest of squeaks. This is the sound emanating from his frequent dust baths.

  4. Quail Diet. He’s eating a special poultry mix from the feed store, and we’ve supplemented his diet with some greens, a few quail/dove seeds and, of course, the necessary grit to help him digest those dietary adjuncts.
  5. Japanese Quail - Male Coturnix Japonica

    Mikiko & His Food

  6. Foraging. Most of what you read about Coturnix involves raising them for food and eggs. And those who know better than I suggest that one-square-foot per quail is adequate living space. For better or worse, I rarely agree with minimal husbandry standards. So, Mikiko has the largest enclosure we could muster — with an environment ripe for the foraging. We’ve hidden food in broccoli forests and hanging grapes. We’ve incorporated sand and rocks and fluffy quail bedding, and made his captive existence as interesting as possible until he finds his way to more freedom in an aviary.
  7. Japanese Quail Coturnix

    Mikiko's Bedding

  8. Sensitivity. Japanese Quail are known to harm themselves when startled. That is, they can shoot straight up and knock themselves out on the ceiling, or even kill themselves, engaging in this innate response. Those who keep Japanese Quail may put safety netting at the top of aviaries to prevent injury (depending on the height of the enclosure). It’s a precarious thing to startle a quail in an environment where he can, in fact, bolt up and knock himself silly.
  9. Play. I don’t know if this is typical of Japanese Quail — I imagine it is — but Mikiko gets excited when people interact with him. He’ll behave much like a dog does around other dogs, exhibiting playful exuberance. This generally leads him right back into his dustbath where he exercises that joy by tossing dirt over his back and wings.
  10. Even at 1000 ISO I couldn’t get my shutter speed over 1/13 in his enclosure. So here’s a motion blur of Mikiko jumping from his dust bath to his bed to his food dish and then back to his dust bath.

    Mikiko Motion Blur

    Mikiko Motion Blur

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