California Quail is a familiar site to many in its range in the western
U.S., with its distinctive top knot and plumage, and its adaptability to
living around humans. They are the state bird of California.
They live in small coveys, moving and feeding as a group. When an
individual bird is separated from the group, a familiar chi-CA-go
call is repeated until the bird can rejoin its group. Popular with
hunters, the species has even been introduced internationally as a gamebird
for hunting. They are very similar to the
Gambel's Quail in appearance, but the
ranges of the two species typically don't overlap.
Habitat: They are often found in areas of
chaparral mixed with open areas and riparian areas, but can also be found in
a variety of other brushy or grassy habitats. They have also adapted
to living in and around suburban areas.
Diet: Feeds mostly on seeds, leaves, and fresh
buds. They will also eat fruits, berries, flowers, tubers, acorns,
nuts, and insects. Depending on time of year and location, vegetation makes
up between 60-90% of the diet.
Behavior: California Quail are very social birds,
living in coveys that often number over 50 individual birds. They
mostly forage on the ground, and typically in and around vegetative cover,
although they will forage in open areas if cover is nearby. When
disturbed, they will most often run away very quickly, but if pressed, will
burst into short, low flights.
Nesting: The nest is typically a shallow
depression in the dirt, placed next to a clump of vegetation or rock for
protection, and lined with grasses. The nest can contain over a dozen
eggs, especially when other females "dump" eggs into another female's nest.
Both parents will help to raise the young.
Song: The call sounds like the word chi-CA-go,
which is repeated in sequences from 3 to 10 times. Males and females
have antiphonal calls, with males and females calling concurrently and
complementing each other's calls in rhythm.
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout its range.
California Quail will attend ground feeders for seed, or areas where seed is
scattered on the ground.
Conservation Status: Populations of California
Quail are generally stable, and the species is considered "least concern" by
the IUCN. They have adapted well to a human presence, and have even
maintained stable populations under quite heavy hunting pressure in parts of
Photo Information: April 19th, 2007 - Point Reyes
National Seashore, California - Terry Sohl