Background The genetics of plumage of Japanese quail is of interest both from a biological standpoint, for comparative studies between avian species, and from a zootechnical standpoint, for identifying commercial selection lines or crosses. There are only few plumage mutations reported in quail, and the present work describes a new color variant "rusty" and a new feather structure "curly", and their heredity from an F1 and F2 segregation experiment. Results Curly feathers result from abnormal early growth caused by transient joining of follicle walls of adjacent feathers around 10 days of age, but the expression of the trait is variable. Rusty plumage color results from the replacement of the wild-type plumage pattern on the tip of the feather by a reddish coloration, but the pigmentation of the bottom part of the feather is not affected. Two lines breeding true for the curly or the rusty phenotype were developed. Both characters are determined by autosomal recessive mutations which are independent. The curly mutation has also a positive effect on body weight at 5 weeks of age. Conclusion The curly line is a new model which may be used for further work on the growth of the feather, and the rusty mutation is a new addition to the panel of plumage mutations available for comparative studies in poultry, and more generally among avian species.