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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Concerning Quails

Concerning Quails.

No birds mentioned in the Bible have a greater claim to distinction than quails, which were sent in vast flocks to the Children of Israel when they murmured for food in the wilderness: "And it came to pass that at even the quails came up and covered the camp." When the Israelites murmured again, because they lacked flesh to eat, "There went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth" (Numbers XI, 31). Many of us have actually witnessed quails on migration in Egypt and Sinai. They come from Europe, an invading army of little brown birds, and cross the Arabian desert. The autumn migration takes place in September. In Egypt, the quails begin to arrive early in the month, and from the coast flow through the Delta on their way to the Soudan. Manythousands are caught in nets, in the coastal districts: they fly chiefly at night, and arriving exhausted at dawn, fall easy victims to the bird-catchers. Numbers are sent to Cairo, where they are hawked about the streets in small palm-rib cages. There are plenty of "bird-lovers" eager to buy them. Your Cairene is fond of canaries in cages; he also likes quail— on toast or without any "fixings". The travelling hosts of birds fly always with the wind: "a wind from the Lord" brought them up from the sea to the Israelites. That was in spring, when the "returning" tide of migration set in, and the quails were heading for Europe. When camped near Rafa, in autumn, we saw the other migration. The birds arrived in multitudes, remained for a while, then continued their long journey. But not all of them; some met an untimely end, and supplemented issue rations in our messes. A wallad captured several by throwing a blanket over them as they crouched in a hollow among the dunes, too weary to fly. We flushed many birds from grass tussocks, close to the beach. Though they are migrants, a few quails remain in Egypt and Palestine through the winter, and rear broods. Pliny, whose "Natural History" has increased the gaiety of naturalists, if not of nations, has a story about quails, which proves that, at least, he knew something of their migrations. They have been known, he says, when flying across the Mediterranean, to alight on a vessel in such numbers as to sink it by their weight! Pliny was not always particular about his "facts".