“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.
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?
These Calipepla squamata birds, with their “punk blondie” Mohawk haircuts, do love to perform in synchronized maneuvers. Here’s one example.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, wait. Missed a great picture of a quail really zeroing in on a carrot.
Okay, back to the “standing proud” series….
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?