In the wild, the natural color is known as "normal" or "wild". The male has a blue-gray forehead. The back of his head is covered with brown feathers which are mottled with distinctively striking black tips. The pattern follows down his back and upper portions of his wings. His chest and sides are bluish gray. This color ends abruptly at his belly and turns into a deep rusty chestnut color that follows down between his legs and tail. Black feathers on his throat swirl back to a thin line beneath his eyes. He has a distinguishing white cheek patch, and a crescent shaped white patch that runs from behind his ears, down below the black throat patch and around the other ear. His average body length is 3 to 3 1/2 inches. His legs are set high on the hips and the bulk of his body hangs down between them, thus giving him perfect balance on the ground and in flight. Females differ from the male by being a duller, more camouflaged color. Her head and back feathers are a slightly lighter shade of brown and mottled with black, but these colors are less distinctive than the markings on the males back. Her underside is light buff with narrow bars of black that run across her belly and chest. Instead of the white throat patch she has a pale buff throat that gradually darkens in color to form a fine line beneath both eyes. The area just above her eyes is a slightly darker shade of tawny brown. Hens have fuller, rounder bodies than do the males and are approximately 3 1/2 to 3 3/4th inches in length making her slightly larger than the male. Both males and females have black eyes, a black beak that grays slightly near the cere and orange legs. The feet are also orange with black toenails. The average height of both male and female is approximately 3 to 3 1/2 inches. The male however, tends to elongate his posture by carrying his body more erect in an attempt to make himself look larger and more imposing. The female on the other hand carries the bulk of her body weight low and in a more horizontal posture.
Mutations occur naturally in the wild, but are rare. When Chinese Blue Breasted Quail "Button Quail" were first introduced into captivity the only color available was the normal wild color. Today however, consumer thirst for new and different colors has resulted in an emphasis on breeding mutations. So much so, that identifying and classifying each new color has become a confusing issue for both novice and professional breeders. There was an attempt in 2002 by international breeders to simplify and organize the chaos by establishing the base colors and referencing each new mutation back to the original one. While there was reasonable agreement with European breeders, American's had their own ideas and failed to accept those standards of the breed classification. The unfortunate result is that several people looking at the same bird will come up with multiple color classifications for it.
The original thinking was to recognize each established color at that time: Normal Blue Breasted (original wild color), Normal Red Breasted (occurs naturally as a mutation in the wild), White (occurs naturally as a mutation in the wild, but rarely) Silver, and Cinnamon, then class each mutation back to the dominant colors each produced. For example a bird that was primarily Cinnamon in color but had a red breast would be simply identified as a Cinnamon Red Breasted, regardless of how pale or dak the main cinnamon color was. Lighting and nutrition play a major role in color variants. Not all so called mutations are truly new colors. For example the lack of Lysine, Choline, Calcium carbonate, proteins and various vitamins can cause feathers to lighten or to lose their color pigments. Exposure to the suns ultra violet rays enhances pigmentation. Chinese Blue Breasted Quail derive their coloration from the Melanin pigment, which is the same pigment that causes humans to tan when exposed to the sun. The Melanin pigment is produced in the bird's body much the way it is in humans. The skin absorbs ultra viiolet rays and causes the pigment producing cells in the skin, melanocytes, to produce melanin. When ultra violet rays are absorbed by the skin, it sends signals through the bloodstream to the pituitary gland, which produces a melanocyte stimulating hormone. Another source of melanocyte stimulating hormones are the optic nerves which send signals to the pituitary gland. Often when lighter colored birds are fed a well balanced diet and receive adequate amounts of ultra violet rays, their feathers darken with the next molt.
The following colors represent Chinese Blue Breasted Quail "Button Quail" mutations as they were depicted in the original 2002 attempt at color standardization which Bracken Ridge Ranch still endorses. It will, for the most part be in contradiction with current American Thinking.
Normal Blue Breasted Pair (Good representation of original wild color) ( Male on left)