Cochise County: Scaled Quail (Callipepla Squamata) Trip Out Over Carrots

“Pam! The scaled quail are stealing the bunnies’ carrots!” Photo op! The Callipepla squamata, plentiful on our Cochise County acreage, weren’t actually thieves, but I didn’t know that at first. All I could think about was grabbing the Canon PowerShot from its carry case at my left hip, sneaking the front door open a few inches to snap pictures, and then continuing the shutter-clicking through the north side kitchen window.

As it turned out, my wife has been putting out carrots for the desert cottontails, tucking the treats into the “bunny fort” javelina-proof PVC pipe feeders I installed a while back…but she’s also been dropping half a dozen goodies on open ground. I’m not sure why she does that to this day, but one unintended consequence was that the scaled quail found them. The birds won’t go into the pipes. They could do so physically, but they won’t.

However, they had found the carrots lying out on the open ground, and were they ever having a ball. A bird ball. A pecking good time.

A few years ago, we had a disastrous experience with a bird feeder set too close to the house. Oodles of house finches frequented the feeder, but they also knocked a lot of seed to the ground…where big ol’ red harvester ants found the incredible bounty. Within a few months, the colony had bred huge-headed super soldiers (which only happens when food is abundant) and invaded the ceiling areas of my bedroom and bathroom.

Harvester ants don’t normally do that. We had to kill them off and remove the feeder.

But now my disabled redhead has a new source of entertainment, watching the scaled quail peck carrots.

Why are Callipepla squamata called “scaled quail”? Because their feathers look like layers of overlapping scales, that’s why. Here’s an excellent example.

Scaled quail.  From his attitude, I'm guessing he's a male.  Those feathers really does look like scales.

Scaled quail. From his attitude, I’m guessing he’s a male. Those feathers really do look like scales.

When dealing with a sizeable flock or herd or plain old bunch of anything, the biggest challenge for the photographer is the near impossibility of getting all of the critters into a single picture. Watching these quail with the naked eye, it’s the numbers that provide the highest level of enjoyment. How could all twelve (or more) of them be shown to our readers the way they show themselves to us here in the Border Fort?

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Not a full dozen. Will eight do?

Eight carrot loving scaled quail, of a covey numbering a dozen or more.

Eight carrot loving scaled quail, of a covey numbering a dozen or more.

These Calipepla squamata birds, with their “punk blondie” Mohawk haircuts, do love to perform in synchronized maneuvers. Here’s one example.

View from the south of a northbound scaled quail pair.

View from the south of a northbound scaled quail pair.

These birds of a feather really do flock together…really closely together when several of them desire the same chunk of carrot. They never seem to fight, but they will “huddle up”, sort of pushing in there to get into the best pecking position.

Head pushing contest over a carrot piece.

Head pushing contest over a carrot piece.

Curiously, while several of the quail were head-pushing each other in feather to feather competition over one piece of carrot, another bird had an entire carrot all to itself. That was one happy Calipepla squamata.

Lone quail with carrot.

Lone quail with carrot.


Viewed head-on, that is one plump quail!

Viewed head-on, that is one plump quail!


Okay, getting down to business, here....

Okay, getting down to business, here….

For whatever reason, few creatures on Earth stand more proudly than these little quail. Hunted by every predator from coyotes to humans, lacking defenses such as venom, claws, opposable thumbs, or oversized brains, packing wings yet flying as little as possible, a scaled quail nonetheless knows how to stand tall. Take a look.
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Oh, wait. Missed a great picture of a quail really zeroing in on a carrot.

Gonna get me some carrot.

Gonna get me some carrot.


Oh, yeah!  That is eye-closing delectable!

Oh, yeah! That is eye-closing delectable!

Okay, back to the “standing proud” series….
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That’s it for this go-round. Pam is delighted to have our carrot donations serving quadruple duty, providing snacks to desert cottontail rabbits, canyon towhees, and scaled quail (all species she loves to watch), along with the occasional pack rat she doesn’t appreciate at all. Here at the Border Fort in southern Cochise County, Arizona, we never know what wildlife observation opportunity is going to come up next. Who knows? It might be a bobcat next.

Note to self: Be careful what you wish for. The bobcats around here are pretty elusive, but we did have an ornery tomcat stopping by for a while, spraying our front door nightly. Wonderfully aromatic. Or was that bobcat spray? Hm…..

Wait a sec. I forgot to upload the coolest photo of all. Doesn’t this look like a single two headed, two tailed bird?

The mythical, magical two headed, two tailed scaled quail.

The mythical, magical two headed, two tailed scaled quail.

4 thoughts on “Cochise County: Scaled Quail (Callipepla Squamata) Trip Out Over Carrots

  1. I love to watch these, but can’t when any of the dogs go out. They love to make them fly. The bunnies hang around front and back here. A herd of the bunnies lives under the front deck. I have watched Patch sit looking out the front window and when I look out to see what he is watching, it is a bunch of bunnies playing in the early morning. They will play right around the vehicles. They hide out under them during the day and if someone comes out to get in one of them, they run for cover under the deck or out into the long grass.

  2. That herd of bunnies sounds awesome. Here we went to all the work of building Bunny Forts and all we needed was a deck! Ours do hang around the vehicles, too. Great cover for protection against raptors if nothing else.

    I don’t reckon we’d get much quail watching done if we had dogs, either. Can’t blame the pups for enjoying the air show when they spook them, though. Has to be a hoot for the pups.

  3. I remember your ant problem and having to remove the bird feeder that you so meticulously placed so Pam could see the birds up close and personal.

    These quail are beautiful. It seems a bit strange that they have such short beaks for their size. Or is that just your phenomenal talent as a photographer making them look larger than life?

    Pam certainly is a wildlife whisperer. She knew exactly what she was doing when she dropped those carrots!

  4. No, Sha, their beaks really are that small. Little teeny bird brains and even more miniscule beaks. Those beaks seem to get the job done, though; those are some mighty fat quail. 🙂

    Pam’s wildlife whispering is definitely impressive. Often, when she’s sitting on the porch (behind the security door with its many holes in the metal that let sound through quite well), one or another species of critter will come right up on the step to commune with her. Bunny, quail, roadrunner, whatever.

    Fortunately, the “pesky critter” magnet seems to be me. Our average of three or so centipedes per summer who enter via that same route have always ended up squiqqling toward “my end of the house”, ignoring the possibility of a side trip to her bedroom altogether. Which is a very good thing; I can deal with the centipedes (which, thankfully, Gato usually spots for me) even though it’s not my favorite thing to do. Pam’s screams during a Close Encounter of the Centipede Kind are utterly inhuman. 🙂

    Had I “lifted” the Border Fort when I built it, of course, rather than building right down on (and to a slight degree in) the Earth, the centipedes would be much less of an issue. But then it would not have been the Border Fort.

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