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Food selection by the common quail coturnix coturnix coturnix in captivity choice of herbaceous plants

Food selection by the common quail coturnix coturnix coturnix in captivity choice of herbaceous plants

Gibier Faune Sauvage 6(JUNE): 125-144

The feeding behaviour of adult male and female Common quails (Coturnix coturnix coturnix) was studied directly in a terrarium where they were offered five series of fresh herbaceous plants representative of the following grassy and cerealic habitats: an old pasture, the banks and ditches, and a wheat plot on sedimentary ground situated in the Rennes basin; the cereal crops and ditches in the polders, and a fescue (Agropyron) meadow in the salt marshes (herbus) of the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay's; viz. a total of 42 species. The plants of the terrestrial habitat were presented to the birds in the phenological state of development they had attained in May-June, those of the maritime habitat were presented in July. These plants were submitted to 10 to 24 peckings per hour and per bird. The quail, which are in their pre-breeding period selectively feed on the plant species of each series offered to them with the exception of those from the high shore. They preferentially consume chickweed (Stellaria media), garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), white clover (Trifolium repens) and common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) from the grassy habitats, wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) knotweed (Polygonum spp.) and black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) from the cerealic habitats. The observed food selection does not give a totally satisfactory explanation for the quail's use of the studied habitats. It can be thought, that if the availability of the food resources has a limiting effect on the presence of quail, this is even more so because of their need for other food items and notably for arthropods.

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