California Quail

California Quail

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The California Quail is probably one of our most adored native birds. Those folks who have the proper habitat for quail and watch them on a regular basis will bore you to death with the stories of "what their covey did today". Avid quail watchers are kind of like proud grandparents showing off photos of the grandkids. 

The California Quail is our State Bird. This designation came about in 1931. Found throughout the state, (all of California is his year-round range) this charming bird is noted for its hardiness and adaptability. Also known as the Valley Quail, he is found in a wide range of habitat zones, preferring mixed woodlands, chaparral and grassy valleys.

In the spring, these ground-nesting birds lay 10-15 brown, spotted eggs in a shallow grass-lined scrape. The young are born precocial. This means that they are born self-feeding; they do not rely on their parents for food. Just 10 days after hatching, these youngsters are able to fly when in danger. These ground-nesting species must develop quickly because of their vulnerability to predators. Most young quail brought to wildlife rehabilitation centers should have, in fact, been left alone. In spite of their small size, young quail are perfectly capable of dealing with life. They begin their explorations of their huge, new world at an early age, and rely on their parents only for guidance and warmth. A group of young quail seen running around aimlessly should not be disturbed unless one is certain that the mother is dead. Although self-feeding, the young are difficult to care for at rehab. centers because of the stress they endure at the hands of humans.

Although primarily ground dwelling, quail will roost at night in trees. After breeding season., quail become gregarious, often forming a covey of up to 200 birds. These coveys are often seen in city parks, gardens and yards. 

Less than 5% of the quail’s diet includes insects. They will occasionally eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets. The majority of their diet in California consists of Filaree, Turkeymullein, Barley, Clover, Lupine, Burclover, Deervetch, Oak, Poison oak, Star thistle and Pigweed. Depending on the season and the availability, they will consume seeds and/or leaves of these plants.

Both male and female California Quail sport the jaunty little plume on top of their head. Males are deeper in color with more black, as opposed to the drab female. As we have all noted in many bird species, the male is more colorful. This obviously makes him more attractive to the female and probably makes up for his lack of personality. 

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