Well, the three families of California quail don't actually belong to Tawny, but they've been visiting her yard, and she sent me these delightful photographs to share with you. (Thanks Tawny!) She estimates 14 young in all. California quail nests, usually placed on the ground in grasses or at the base of shrubs or trees, generally have 12-16 eggs. Some have been known to contain up to 28 eggs, though, as a result of ‘egg-dumping’, a practice where female quail lay eggs in nests other than their own. Maybe it's not so suprising, then, that sometimes several families of California quail get together shortly after the babies hatch and care for the young together, kind of kibbutz-style. Apparently, quail parents that raise their young this way tend to live longer than those that do not. I wonder if Tawny's quails are doing the group-parenting thing?
|Male California Quail - can you see the babies hiding under those colourful wings?|
Photo by Tawny Capon
|The babies venture out. Photo by Tawny Capon.|
Incubation, usually by the mother, takes 18 to 23 days. The babies leave the nest shortly after hatching but stay with the parents on the ground for about 28 days.
California quail (callipepla californica) rarely move more than ten miles from where they hatch. And when they do move, they prefer walking and running to flying - unless there's a predator on their tail. Then they'll fly! In the fall they'll gather in coveys of up to 100 birds, where one 'sentinel' bird stands guard while the others eat for an hour or two before and after sunrise and sunset. Their diet is about 70% vegetarian.
If they're calling one another, you can hear California quail coming long before they're in sight. In spite of their name, their most well-known call sounds like "Chi-ca-go!" You can hear this call plus three others at www.allaboutbirds.org. Search for California quail then go to the "Sound" page.
|Off we go! Photo by Tawny Capon.|
California Quail on Gabriola and around the world
Although there appear to be many families of California quail on Gabriola, they are considered an uncommon local resident in the southern Vancouver Island region. But clearly, they do live and breed here, as well as in the Okanagan Valley. Their habitat also includes certain parts of the western states (especially California), the Baja peninsula, Chile, and Argentina. And because these quail are a popular game bird, they were long ago successfully introduced to other parts of the world including New Zealand, Hawaii, and Europe. Every year between 800,000 and 1.2 million California quail are shot by hunters in California alone. In spite of this, numbers are not dwindling.
|Male California Quail - in California.|
Photo by Dave Menke courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service.
The head plume (aka topknot) of the California quail looks like a single large feather but is actually composed of six overlapping feathers. Dennis wonders what Mother Nature was thinking when she designed this. Any ideas?