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California Quail

Male California Quail

The call of the California Quail might be the one we most recognize. Appropriately it’s our state bird. This habitat generalist lives in many parts of the state and is usually a year-round resident. The male has a black forehead and chin with a white stripe over its eyes and under the chin. He also has that great teardrop plume of five feathers poking straight out from his forehead like a pompadour. The male serves as the sentry for the flock or covey of quail. You see him perched on a fencepost or some other lookout ready to sound the alarm at the first sign of danger.

Instead of flying, quail prefer to run. They’ve been clocked at twelve miles per hour. California Quail habitually feed for a few hours after sunrise and a few before sunset. Their diet is mostly seeds and acorns but they also eat berries and insects.

The females raise twelve to fourteen chicks in each clutch. The nest is usually on the ground hidden in tall grass or next to a rock or log. The young are born precocial, which means they are born with feathers and their eyes open. They can soon run after hatching and if need be fly within eight days. The chicks brood with mom for two to four weeks sleeping under her belly and then join the other adults to roost in trees at night.

First published February, 2009 MCAS Whistling Swan
Quail photo by Tim Bray