U.S. New World Quail

Mountain Quail, California (male)

Mountain Quail, California (male)

Here is an overview of the rest of the U.S. New World quail, following the California Quail featured Friday.


Mountain quail can be found in mountainous chaparral in the far western U.S. and Mexico.  They migrate from higher mountain elevations to lower for winter.  More info here.


California quail (left) and mountain quail (males)

California quail (left) and mountain quail (males)

Lately I’ve been hearing the mountain quail call notes on my morning walk.  We are fortunate that they nest around our property, and are more vocal in spring.  What I hear here.


Their “exclamation point” atop their reddish face is distinctive from other quail.


An extremely skittish bird, for years we heard, but never saw them.  Then one year, spring of 2009, a pair visited our “seed patch.”


Two days in a row they arrived around dinner time.


Quail hide and Athena

Quail hide and Athena

So the next afternoon we quickly devised a temporary blind with burlap, and settled down behind it.  We were ready (and hidden) in case they showed up.


They showed up!


Although we still hear them every spring, we have only seen them once or twice since then.


Gambel's Quail (male), California

Gambel’s Quail (male), California

Gambel’s quail, the closest relative to the California quail, live in the deserts of America’s southwest in river valleys, arroyos, and dry grasslands.  They eat seeds and cacti fruit.


Gambel's Quail (male), California

Gambel’s Quail (male), California

We were lucky to see a pair at the Salton Sea in southern California.  More info here.


Montezuma quail, courtesy Wikipedia

Two more western U.S. quail are the montezuma and scaled quail.  They live in and around Mexico and the southwestern U.S.


Callipepla squamataUSDAalt.jpg

Scaled quail, photo by Gary Kramer, courtesy Wikipedia

Montezuma quail info here.  Scaled quail info  here.


Virginiawachtel 2007-06-16 065.jpg

Northern Bobwhite, photo by Virginia Wachtel, courtesy Wikipedia.

The last on this list of quail, Northern Bobwhite are the only native quail in the eastern U.S.


Named for their whistling call sound “bob-white,” this species is further divided into 22 subspecies.  Call sound here.


My late father, an outdoor enthusiast, spoke often about the bobwhite in the midwest countryside while growing up.  He often said, “I haven’t seen them in years.”


I have spent many hours looking for this bird where he (and I) grew up, but never found it.  Even with a guide, we only heard the bobwhite.


Colinus virginianus live in open pine forests, fields, and grasslands foraging on grass seeds, and small invertebrates like grasshoppers and beetles.  Ground-dwelling, like all quail, they also live in a few pockets of the western U.S., and have been introduced in other countries as game birds, too.  More info here.


Conservation is underway for this species that has declined for a number of reasons, primarily habitat loss.  Extensive studies have revealed more than 700 fossils of the bobwhite, some 2.5 millions old, throughout the southern U.S.


One day two springs ago, I was visiting Texas and went on a self-guided auto tour at Attwater Wildlife Refuge.  I was surprised and delighted to hear the distinctive call of the bobwhite–this bird I had searched for, but only heard, for years.


The grass was waist high and all auto tour visitors were prohibited from getting out of their car.


We slowly inched closer and closer to the sound, craning our necks out the car windows in search of this bird that would be a “lifer.”  Eventually the cagey little quail emerged from the grass for five glorious seconds.


Thank you for joining me on this quail series.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander (unless otherwise noted)



47 thoughts on “U.S. New World Quail

    • I am really glad you enjoyed it, Sharon. Yest. morn. I heard the mtn quail more in one morning than ever before. I think the immersion you speak of reached them too! Thanks so much for taking the time to immerse.

  1. Jet how fabulous that you finally saw the bob white even if for those fleeting seconds. I so enjoyed seeing how you set up the blind. I wondered how Athena could possible capture so many images just walking about. Good to see the behind the scenes.

    • So glad you enjoyed seeing the blind, Sue. We threw that one together with whatever we could find that day, but since then we also bought a blind (from Cabela’s). It’s a camouflage pop-up tent, complete with little plastic leaves, which I think is hilarious. It’s good because it’s portable. Always a treat to have you stop by, Sue — thank you.

  2. very interesting and thank you Jet for the wonderful series on quails. really enjoyed it! love the sound of the mountain quail; as if I was out there too 🙂

  3. Our Midwestern quails don’t seem quite as glamorous as your classy West Coast birds, but the Bob-White sound here, though rare, is lovely to hear.

  4. Interesting birds and patience testers, being larger than the birds I see daily, the quails are so annoying because they move erratically and they simply disappear from sight helped by their natural camouflage plumage. Great post as always dear Jet! Great blind Athena! 🙂

    • Your comment made me smile, HJ. Quail do simply disappear from sight, don’t they? I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, and appreciate your warm words. 🙂

  5. That’s as a cool makeshift hide! The various American quail look more exotic that the European quail – more colour. I loved that sound recording of the male mountain quail – it has a wonderful call.

    • I now love sitting in blinds at home, and may not have ever done something like if it hadn’t been for the mountain quail. I’m not at all surprised you enjoyed the recording, Alastair, you being a recording artist. The sound of the male mountain quail is delightful. The mtn quail do this thing, too, of throwing their voices; you think they’re in one direction, but then they call again and they’re in the opposite direction. Many thanks~~

    • I sure enjoyed your video, Adrienne. That’s a unique friendship, and as I commented there, the bobwhite has so much to say! Thanks very much for your fun video and comment.

  6. These are all beautiful birds! How wonderful your patience and perseverance afforded you a five second glimpse of the most elusive quail – here’s hoping you maybe get another view sometime…
    A lovely post, Jet (and the makeshift blind made me smile!)

    • We birders learn patience, that’s for sure. I’m going birding in bobwhite country (Wisc.) next month, I do hope to see another. Really appreciate your visit today, pc, and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and the blind.

  7. Quails are special birds– always love to see them. Once in awhile we hear the Bobwhites but I’m still trying ti see one. Your patience is paying off

  8. You may have seen one but they are so well camouflaged you might not have been able to make him (her) out! Love Athena’s quail hide!

    • Fun quail hide, yes, Jan? A ladder, a broom, and burlap. We cut a hole in the burlap for the camera lens. It worked! I appreciate your visits, always, Jan~~

    • Until I wrote this post, I didn’t realize there were so many quail either, SWI. As I began writing it, I had to organize it into two posts. I’m delighted you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  9. I so much enjoyed reading your fabulous in every way quail post,dear Jet!So rich in photos,vivid accounts,sweet whistling sounds and a bit of bobwhite nostalgia as well.Birds of rare beauty and so many species!Loved Athena’s photos where the bright red crest and the striped flanks with the white are so distinctive.The “hear ~ here” links are wonderful too.I got some laugh in there as while playing them,all my dogs started barking and running in the garden to spot the “singers” lol.Honestly,I am still laughing.Your makeshift open shed brought some smiles too and I found your “five glorious seconds” experience so affecting.All the best to you,dear friend!Have a wonderful day 🙂 ~ * * * ~

    • And what a laugh I got from your comment, dear Doda. I got a real kick out the image of your dogs barking and running about trying to find the source of the bird calls. I am delighted you (and your dogs) so thoroughly enjoyed the quail post; and all our adventures with trying to see, hear and photograph these wily creatures. It was a great happy start to my day, thank you so much. 😀

  10. Oh, my favorites! What a delightful post, Jet! I didn’t know there are so many relatives, and all of them so beautiful. Thank you for always interesting stories!

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