California Valley Quail

Callipepla californica

Quail track drawing by Kim A. Cabrera. Copyrighted. Do not use without permission. Quail track drawing by Kim A. Cabrera. Copyrighted. Do not use without permission.
 

California Valley Quail Tracks

 
 

 

Natural History of the California Valley Quail

 

Quail family. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

 

This is the state bird of California.

Quail spend most of their time foraging on the ground, therefore their tracks are found in a line, one after the other. Both male and female have a teardrop-shaped tuft of dark feathers on top of the head, although the female is not as boldly colored as the male.

After the breeding season, quail live together in groups called coveys. These groups of up to 200 birds are composed of parents and young.

Parents closely watch their young. While the group is feeding, one bird will act as a sentinel to warn the group of any approaching danger. If you’re hiking along and startle a covey of quail, they will all burst into flight at once with a roaring of wings.

These small, plump birds roost in trees for safety. They can be found inhabiting parks and woodland edges.

Quail tracks are frequently found on sandy river bars.

Their calls can be heard in the summer. The call, which sounds like Chi-ca-go, is often given from a low perch.

 

 

Female quail acting as lookout. The young were on the ground, feeding. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

 

 

trail of quail tracks

These perfect quail tracks in dust show all the details of the feet

 

male quail

The male California quail has a tuft of feathers on top of the head. The female has them too, but they are much smaller.

 

Quail tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Quail tracks crossing a dirt road. Quail spend most of their time on the ground. Their tracks are usually found in a line like this because they run rather than hop. Birds that spend most of their time in trees tend to hop, with their feet paired, rather than run when on the ground.
 

Quail tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Line of quail tracks in dust. The farther apart the tracks are, the faster the bird was running.

   

Quail photo by Kim A. Cabrera. Copyright 2007. Do not use without permission.

This quail was perched at the top of a berry vine while the others in the covey fed on the ground below. Quail often have one individual bird who acts as a lookout while others feed. This cooperative arrangement helps keep the entire group safer from predators.
A male California valley quail. Note the two feathers that make up the plume on the top of his head. The males have this bright, bold coloring. Females have a small plume and more subtle coloring.

Quail photo by Kim A. Cabrera. Copyright 2007. Do not use without permission.

Male quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

This quail acted as lookout for others who were feeding at my bird feeder. This is a male. The males have a bold pattern on the face and a bigger plume than the females.
Quail scats in dust. Scats look like pellets and often one end is somewhat pointed. The whitish material is frequently found in bird scats.

Quail scats. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

   

California valley quail scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

A fresh quail scat on sandstone. This one shows some flattening on the end that struck the ground. Sometimes, there is whitish material on one end as well.
   

Quail scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Quail scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

More California quail scats. The whitish uric material at the end is typical of bird scats.

   

Right track of a quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Quail dust bath. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The right footprint of a quail. The small "toe" which faces backward is called the hallux and is found in some bird tracks. Quail dust bath. Birds will often use dusty places to roll in and clean their feathers. Some think this is a way to remove pests.
 

Walking gait of a quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Walking gait of a quail.

 

Walking gait of a quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The two photo above show the trails of quail in dust. When running, their tracks will be placed further apart. This is the normal walking gait.

 

Quail dust bath site with feathers

Quail dust bath site with feathers and quail tracks

 

Quail dust bath

Quail dust bath. Quail use these daily.

 

Quail dust bath site

Quail dust bath site

 

Quail nest with unhatched eggs

Quail nest with un-hatched eggs.

 

Close-up of quail nest after hatching of the eggs

Close-up of quail nest after hatching of the eggs.

 

Quail nest under a rock overhang

Quail nest under a rock overhang. These eggs have hatched.

 

Male California quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A male quail runs across a dirt road.

 

Quails and Brush rabbit. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Pair of quail near a feeding brush rabbit.

 

Female California quail. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Female California quail.

 

California quail scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A California quail scat.

 

Personal Notes on California Valley Quail

 

I frequently hear these birds when I'm out hiking. Many times, I have startled a covey of quail and they have taken wing with a roar. It's pretty loud when about 50 birds take flight all at once! The call of the quail reminds me of summer and many pleasant walks in my favorite campground, Albee Creek Campground. When the young quail are hatched, they follow their parents around in a little group. I've watched several broods grow up. The little quail will run and hide at the first sign of danger. One of the parents is always on the lookout for any predators. I've always enjoyed seeing quail. The photos below are of some of the quail families I have known over the years.

 
California quail
Male California quail
 
quail chickquail chickquail chickquail chick
Some tiny quail chicks who walked into a shed
 
baby quaildaddy and baby quail
Two photos showing quail family
 
two young quail
Young quail feeding
 
Family of quail feeding under some brush
Family of quail feeding under some brush
 
Female quail
Female quail with short tuft of feathers on top of head
 
Mid-summer quail young
Mid-summer quail young
 
Three quail chicks following their mother
Three quail chicks following their mother
 
Daddy quail with one baby quail
Daddy quail with one baby quail
 
Youngsters with their mother
Youngsters with their mother
 
Quail family crossing road
Quail family crossing road
 
Three young quail with their mother
Three young quail with their mother
 
Family of quail
Family of quail
 
Quail with babies
Quail with babies
 
Young quail
Young quail
 
Quail in mid-summer
Quail in mid-summer, not quite full grown yet
 
quail youngster
Baby quail
 
young quail
Young quail
 
Family of quail taking a dust bath
Family of quail taking a dust bath
 
Mama quail with three little ones
Mama quail with three little ones
 
Daddy and baby quail
Daddy and baby quail
 
Three quail
 

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Copyright © 1997, 2008, 2013. Text, photos, and drawings by Kim A. Cabrera