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Quail Information, Photos, Artwork and Facts

The Quail's behavior of traveling in groups for safety reasons teaches us that it is always better to stick together through good times and bad.

A handsome game bird, the southwestern Quail (Callipepla) has a unique patterned plumage covering its rather portly body. Both the Gambel's and the California quail are some of the most popular game birds in southwestern North America. American Expedition is proud to present information, interesting facts, and photos of the Quail.

Quail painting

Quail Information

Quail are a popular Southwestern North American game bird. There are two species of quail that occur in these areas: the Gambel's quail, which is named after a 19th century explorer of the southwestern U.S (William Gambel), and the California quail, which is the state bird of California. The two species of quail are often confused due to similar plumage, but they can be distinguished by looking for a black patch on the lower breast of the male - the Gambel's quail has this patch, but the California quail does not. Additionally, the California quail has a range that is a bit to the north of the Gambel's quail, although their ranges do intersect.

A small sketch of several quail feeding.

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The male quail sports copper colored feathers on the top of the head, as well as black faces with white stripes. Also notice the cluster of feathers extending from the top of their head. In contrast to the male, the female quail has a head which more closely matches the gray coloration of the rest of her body, as well as a smaller "topknot" of feathers. Quail measure around 10-12 inches in length, have a wingspan of 14-16 inches, and weigh an average of 4.9-8.1 ounces.

Quail spend most of their time on the ground, scratching at the soil to dig up food. Quail are very sociable birds, and often gather in small flocks called "coveys." They are somewhat laid back birds, preferring to walk on the ground rather than fly, but if startled they can explode into flight at a speed of up to 40 miles per hour. However, quail cannot endure long flights. They usually live their entire lives within a 40-acre radius.

Gambel's quail are monogamous birds, but California quail will form "communal broods" which will include multiple members of each sex. During mating season in the springtime, males will claim territory and compete for a female. The female then builds the nest where she will soon lay 12-16 eggs. She will sit on these eggs for about 3 weeks until they hatch. Both the mother and the father quail will care for the chicks. They usually join into groups with other families of quail, for safety purposes. After two weeks, the chicks are capable of flying and at age 3-4 weeks, they are reasonably independent. The average lifespan of a quail is only about 2-3 years.

Quail Facts

  • Quail cannot endure long flights, and they usually live their entire lives within a 40-acre radius.
  • If startled, these birds explode into short rapid flight, called “flushing.”
  • Quail have a lifespan of 2-3 years.
  • Quail have "scaly" plumage on their undersides which alternate between light and dark. The rest of their body is gray, with the exception of the male's head, which is topped by a brown "crown" and features a black face with white stripes.
  • Quail are rarely seen in flight, preferring only to fly when startled. In flight, they rapidly beat their wings, and they do not have the endurance to keep it up for long. They usually settle to the ground by gliding.
  • Although adult quail primarily eat seeds, leaves, and other plant materials, chicks love to eat insects. Their diet gradually shifts to plant materials as they mature.
  • Quail will often take "dust baths" where they will burrow into soft soil two to three inches deep, then wriggle around in the dirt while flapping their wings and ruffling their feathers. You can detect the presence of quail in an area by looking for the circular indentations left behind by their dust baths.
  • Quail can move surprisingly fast through underbrush, and they will usually build their nests on the ground below a shrub or other covering plant.
  • Painting of a quail flying.

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  • Quail eggs are cream colored with black splotches.
  • Quail have 3 syllable calls. The California quail sounds like it is saying the word “Chicago.”
  • There are other types of quail in the United States as well. These are also hunted.

Quail Habitat

The California Quail and Gambel’s Quail inhabit the semi-arid scrubland and brushy regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They primarily scrounge on the ground for seeds, leaves, and other plant materials, but they also eat insects and berries.

Quail Hunting Tips

  • A trained dog will improve your odds of shooting quail.
  • The dog will stand and “point” to the area a convoy of quail is occupying.
  • 12 or 20 gauge shotguns are the ideal types of guns to use.
  • Early in the morning or evening is when the quail come out to feed. This is the best time to hunt them.
  • Collect the dates of quail season. It usually ranges from mid October to mid February.
  • Hunting off-season is illegal and can result in a fine, the suspension or loss of equipment, or even jail time.
  • Check your state laws to find what permits you need to have in order to hunt quail. Most states require you to at least have a small game permit. Along with these, you must also have a hunting license. It is illegal to hunt without these.
  • Check the bag limit (amount of quail you are allowed to harvest in a day).
A quail in the desert.

The quail is one of the most popular game birds in southwestern North America

A close up photo of a quail's head.

The male quail sports copper colored feathers on the top of the head, as well as black faces with white stripes. Also notice the cluster of feathers extending from the top of their head.

A male and female quail together.

In contrast to the male, the female quail has a head which more closely matches the gray coloration of the rest of her body, as well as a smaller "topknot" of feathers.

A quail in a tree.

A Gambel's quail perched in a tree. Notice the black spot on the lower breast - this is an easy way to distinguish the Gambel's quail from the California quail.

A quail with a sandy background.

Quail measure around 10-12 inches in length. They primarily scrounge on the ground for seeds, leaves, and other plant materials, but they also eat insects and berries.

A quail with a succulent plant behind it.

Quail are rarely seen in flight, preferring only to fly when startled.

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