15 Prairial: Caille (quail, Coturnix spp. and others)
I was trying to determine the exact level of cuteness of the republican calendar’s caille. Does the calendar, or does it not, include button quail? Because it’s pretty well understood that button quail are not merely extremely, but in fact pretty darned, cute. They’re about thisbig, their chicks are “bumblebee-sized,” and when they’re startled they “boink" themselves straight up into the air. But are they quail?
As it turns out—yes. They are. Wikipedia gave me a scare by pointing out that buttonquail are not true quail, but it turns out that the “button quail” of aviculture is in fact the Chinese Painted Quail or King Quail, Excalfactoria chinensis, previously(?) known as Coturnix chinensis. There. Breathe easy, dear reader, the republican calendar’s scope is grand enough to include the button quail.
Granted the French of the 18th century likely had the common quail in mind, Coturnix coturnix. Millin sounds charmed by this quail as well: “As soon as the little quaillets are hatched, they begin to scamper about; the mother guides them through the countryside and hides them under her wings just like the hen and the partridge.” Les petits cailleteaux se mettent à trotter.