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.
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.
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, 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.
We were lucky to see a pair at the Salton Sea in southern California. More info here.
Two more western U.S. quail are the montezuma and scaled quail. They live in and around Mexico and the southwestern U.S.
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)