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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander
Look for more quail writings on Monday, and have a great weekend!