California Quail

California Quail, California

California Quail, California (male)

There are many different kinds of quail in the world–Old World, New World; some are native, others introduced.  Some species are thriving, others are threatened, some are farm-raised, or artificially stocked for game hunting.  List of all quail here.


Many people are familiar with at least one quail species, for me it is the California quail. Today I’ll share the California quail, and on Monday I’ll cover a few other favorite quail.


California Quail

California Quail (male)

Callipepla californica sport a plume or “topknot” on top of the head, and a variety of rich, earth-colored markings and patterns. The plume bobs slightly with the quail’s movement.


They do not just live in California, more info here.


California’s state bird, they forage, live, and nest on our mountain chaparral property.  They prefer habitat in grassy or brush areas; eating seeds, insects, and sometimes berries.


Calif. Quail (female)

Calif. Quail (female)

We see this species all over the state while hiking or driving back roads; they also frequent feeder stations and live in human-populated natural areas.


Most of the year the quail quietly visit under the feeders, traveling under cover of the trees and bushes.  They will fly if necessary, their wingbeat making a whirring sound, but usually they walk.  Congregating in large groups, called coveys, families communally care for the young.


Calif. Quail juvenile

Calif. Quail juvenile

But at this time of the year everything changes.  Couples pair off, breed and nest.


Conspicuously inconspicuous for a few weeks in spring, we know they are busy somewhere with new young, protecting and feeding.


As ground birds, they are vulnerable to predators of all kinds including hawks, owls, jays, coyote, bobcat, and domestic house cats.  Stealthiness is crucial.


Calif. Quail juveniles

Calif. Quail juveniles

After they’ve been feeder-absent for those two or three weeks of nesting, we avidly keep watch for that one bright day when a pair will reappear under the feeder with the new generation.


Sometimes we get to see the brand new fluff-ball chicks.  Most of the time, however, the chicks have been growing for a week or so before we see them.


Almost always there are 6-8 chicks per parental pair.  I’ve read they can have up to 28 chicks in one nest, but after 14 years of counting the new chicks, I have never seen more than eight young per adult pair.


The first thing I heard when I opened the window this morning was the “Chi-ca-go” call of the California quail.  I looked out and saw the male in the lead, the female following.  It’s a little too early in the season for the chicks, but I watched anyway.


California Quail family

California Quail family

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Look for more quail writings on Monday, and have a great weekend!


50 thoughts on “California Quail

    • Wonderful, Jan, for you to be greeted every morning by the Calif. quail. I, too, find them so very amusing. Appreciate your visit and comment today, and always~~

    • Of all the New World quail, the Calif. quail are most closely related to the Gambel’s. I have seen a Gambel’s only a few times. I am happy you are entertained by them, Ingrid — thanks so much.

  1. Awesome bird, gorgeous! I remember when I saw it for the first (and only?) time, sitting on a fencepost along a most traveled road… the trucks drove so fast, we didn’t dare stop the car to take a look at the bird ><

    • You describe the scene well, Samuel. Owing to their size and shape, they stand out even when driving by, and are so very memorable. I’m glad you stopped by today, so I could give you a longer glimpse. 😉

  2. How wonderful to have these beautiful birds around your home. Lovely photographs, I can see why you enjoy them! I had a quail of a time reading this. Enjoy your weekend!

    • I would guess you have the Gambel’s quail where you live in Scottsdale, very similar to the Calif. quail. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for stopping by.

    • It sure is great to have the quail here in the backyard, Amy. They weren’t here when we moved in, but we have created ideal living conditions for them. I hope your weekend is filled with sunshine, Amy~~

  3. Jet I could hardly believe the list of types of quail from Wikipedia. I often feel like I live in a box thinking there is only one kind of ‘xyz’ until you and Athena reveal a circus tent full of cousins and kin. Does the top knot have a purpose other than showing off?

    • I’m glad you looked at the list of quail, Sue; I, too, found it amazing! In fact, I started writing the post about all the New World quail and then it just too unwieldy, the more I discovered how many species there were. The most common explanation I found for the male’s plume is that it attracts a mate, who equates the healthy plume to good genes. Thanks so much for your interest and comments — much appreciated.

  4. We have so many quail in our community…we were just watching a family…mom/dad and kids crossing the street over the weekend while we were out talking to neighbors….I was surprised to find so many in the desert….I always learn so much from you…I’m with Sue…you continue to broaden our horizons…

    • Hi Sylvia — there are New World quail in Florida, called the Northern Bobwhite. But they are attractive to hunters, and are consequently probably difficult to see in the wild. I’ve searched many hours for bobwhites in the eastern half of the country without success. More on the bobwhites on Monday. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend~~

  5. What a beautiful bird. The quail should be proud to show off its unusual markings, color and pleasantly molded shape but I always see them quickly running into the shrub along the side of the road when they feel threatened. I love it when their little chicks are running their legs off trying to keep up with mom/dad and others. If they are hidden in the shrub their unusual call will definitely define them. Thanks for sharing the interesting behavior and facts about the bird.

    • Dear SWI, you just described the quail perfectly! I see your artful observations are always at work. I, too, love to see those adorable chicks, hear the quails call from the shrubs, and watch them scurry away. Thanks so much for your rich comment~~

  6. Such a pleasant post with fabulous photos and rich illustrations of the beautiful California Quail!To be honest,I was stunned by the long list of the species as I had the impression it was just the one I have seen in my country which is the Coturnix quail.They migrate from North Africa in the spring to nest and in September they fly south in flocks to Africa again.Athena’s photos are splendid,in the first and second, one can see its beautiful plumage.The family one is so lovely too and that “Chi-ca-go” call you heard sounds so wonderful!Looking forward to your Monday quails and wishing you a brilliant weekend with your adorable feathered friends in your garden 🙂

    • I agree, Doda, such a long and stunning list of quail species. I looked up the coturnix quail, and that genus is beautiful, and I am not surprised, for quail are so lovely. I am glad you enjoyed the photos here, and appreciate your kind and warm words. My best to you for a continued wonderful weekend, and many thanks. 🙂

    • I, too, love the beautiful markings of the CQ, Sharon. I would imagine you have seen it many times, and how fortunate any of us are to see a quail. Thanks so much, as always, for your contribution to the post.

  7. I love these little guys. We had quite a few at the old house and under our feeder. This time of year was so much fun with the little ones following one of the adults like a little choo-choo train. I could watch them for hours if I could. It looks like the new house has some, too. I’ve missed them here in town.

    • The quail are indeed so much fun to watch, and you describe the chicks well, Gunta–like a little choo-choo train. Made me smile. Once when I was housesitting at a house, Calif. quail came into the driveway and I thought, “wouldn’t that be so great to have quail in your own yard?” And this inspired me, when we moved rural, to begin the tradition at our house. I’m so lucky because now they live and breed here year round. I hope you have the same delight at your new house.

  8. The ‘delicious’ comment above is the reason our local quail populations are failing in Texas. I miss the Bobwhite calls of spring from when I was a child. No more.

    Such a glorious experience to watch new gens of quail from your home. Thanks for sharing the joy!

    • I have never eaten a quail, and never will, and I see you are on the same track, Shannon. I saw a bobwhite in Texas (today’s post) at Attwater Refuge near Houston, and was absolutely thrilled. Thanks so much for your comments, I always enjoy them.

  9. Aren’t they darling!?! It never ceases to amaze me what a vast variety of birds there are. Thank you for sharing them, Jet (and Athena).

  10. “Your” quail is a beautiful bird too! I hope you’ll see some little fluff balls this spring 🙂 I saw that you said there are quails in Florida too, but unfortunately I have never spotted one – yet.

  11. Pingback: #400 « The Sophomore Slump

    • Thanks very much, Cynthia; I’m glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the kind words. I invite you to read more of my writing when my new mystery novel comes out in a few wks — stay tuned.

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