califquailrrr11

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014

The California Quail is a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume. Its stiffly accented Chi-ca-go call is a common sound of the chaparral and other brushy areas of California and the Northwest. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quail are common but unobtrusive. They flush to cover if scared, so approach them gently.

Size & Shape
California Quail are plump, short-necked game birds with a small head and bill. They fly on short, very broad wings. The tail is fairly long and square. Both sexes have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers projecting forward from the forehead, longer in males than females.

Color Pattern
Adult males are rich gray and brown, with a black face outlined with bold white stripes. Females are a plainer brown and lack the facial markings. Both sexes have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales on the belly. Young birds look like females but have a shorter topknot.

Behavior
California Quail spend most of their time on the ground, walking and scratching in search of food. In morning and evening they forage beneath shrubs or on open ground near cover. They usually travel in groups called coveys. Their flight is explosive but lasts just long enough to reach cover.

Habitat
You’ll find California Quail in chaparral, sagebrush, oak woodlands, and foothill forests of California and the Northwest. They’re quite tolerant of people and can be common in city parks, suburban gardens, and agricultural areas.

Cool Facts

  • The California Quail digests vegetation with the help of protozoans in its intestine. Chicks acquire the protozoans by pecking at the feces of adults.
  • Several California Quail broods may mix after hatching, and all the parents care for the young. Adults that raise young this way tend to live longer than adults that do not.
  • Pairs of California Quail call antiphonally, meaning that the male and female alternate calls, fit them into a tightly orchestrated pattern.
  • The California Quail’s head plume, or topknot, looks like a single feather, but it is actually a cluster of six overlapping feathers.
  • As an adaptation to living in arid environments, California Quails can often get by without water, acquiring their moisture from insects and succulent vegetation. During periods of sustained heat they must find drinking water to survive.
  • The California Quail is California’s state bird and has had roles in several Walt Disney movies, including "Bambi."
  • California Quail nests can contain as many as 28 eggs. These large clutches may be the result of females laying eggs in nests other than their own, a behavior known as "egg-dumping."
  • California Quail are pretty as well as popular with game hunters. They’ve been introduced to many other parts of the world, including Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand.
  • The oldest known California Quail was 6 years 11 months old.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/California_Quail/id

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