Quail are the Sonoran desert equivalent of the closely related
California Quail. The ranges
of the two species do not overlap, but the plumages are quite similar, right
down to the distinctive curved "topknot" feather (actually a plume of 6
individual feathers). Gambel's Quail inhabitat the dry shrubby
habitats of the desert Southwest, where small coveys of the birds can often
be seen scurrying across roads or through desert vegetation. The
handsome birds have been introduced on some of the Hawaiin Islands.
Habitat: They have adapted very well to dry
Sonoran desert environments, but the largest concentrations of Gambel's
Quail are often found around riparian areas and sources of water. They
can be found in different shrubby habitats, but seem to prefer true Sonoran
desert habitat with scattered cactus and mesquite. They also have
adapted to living in and around suburban areas, given that adequate
vegetative cover is available.
Diet: Feeds mostly on vegetative material,
includings seeds, fruits, nuts, leaves, and berries. They will
occasionally eat insects, but typically not as much as
Behavior: Gambel's Quail most often forage on the
ground, but will also forage in shrubs and trees. They forage in
coveys outside of the breeding season with coveys of 20-30 birds a typical
size, but they may forage in pairs or smaller family groups after the young
have fledged in the late spring. When disturbed, they prefer to
quickly run into thick cover, only taking flight when absolutely necessary
to avoid danger.
Nesting: The nest is a shallow depression lined
with grasses and leaves, usually placed nest to the base of a shrub or other
vegetation. Females alone incubate a nest of around a dozen eggs, but
both parents will help to raise the young.
Song: The male sings a repetitive,
pop-ehhhhh-pop song. The species also has a variety of additional
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout its range.
Gambel's Quail will attend ground feeders for seed, or areas where seed is
scattered on the ground.
Conservation Status: Populations of Gambel's Quail are generally stable, and the species is considered
to be of "least concern" by
the IUCN. Local populations may fluctuate depending upon short-term
climate and foraging opportunities, but overall populations are stable.
Photo Information: May 10th, 2008 - Saguaro
National Park, Arizona - Terry Sohl