Callipepla gambelii? Yes. Pam had been seeing the covey of Gambel’s quail pecking the ground around our off grid Cochise County home (dubbed the Border Fort) off and on for months. Mostly in the early morning hours, though, when I was sleeping and she wasn’t. On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, that changed; I glanced out of the north side office window around 11:00 a.m. and there they were.
Two? No, more than that…oh. Those first two are juveniles, more than half grown, but still considerably smaller than their parents.
Well, then. Would they hang around long enough for me to get the camera? I no longer carry the Canon PowerShot at my left hip on a daily basis, figuring all the items I had hanging on my belt–key chains, camera case, folding knife in leather sheath, cell phone holster–had made me look like some relation to a police officer for long enough. Beside, all that weight had a tendency to drag my jeans toward the floor…and nobody needs to see that.
Thankfully, the charming little quail did decide to stick around for a while, as the photos in this post will attest. I was thoroughly grateful, too; photo ops for our other resident quail species have been more than sufficient, but the Gambel’s? Not so much.
They made up for it today. Especially this one fellow. His photos came out best–if you like flashy, anyway–so he gets most of the glory.
Okay, Wikipedia says the males have “copper feathers” on the tops of their heads, so yes, this one’s a male. What Wiki does not say, however, is that the girl quail looks decidedly more feminine in the face than does the male. No idea if there are transgendered quail who might confuse that issue, though….
Apparently, California quail look a lot like the Gambel’s quail we see here in southeastern Arizona, but lack the black patch on the under-front side of the breast. So there’s a relatively easy ID for you, should you happen to live in an area where both species might be found.
The female of the species, like many birds, chooses a more drab appearance, as seen in the header photo (top of page). In the case of the Gambel’s quail, this may well be an important survival tactic. She lays her eggs on the ground and does most if not all of the incubating, which means being well camouflaged is a good way to keep from being eaten by a passing coyote, bobcat, or other prowling predator. Hunkered down, those blue-gray feathers would look pretty much like a rock, so as long as she didn’t blink….
She takes care of herself well, too, fluffing her feathers and rooting out pesky parasitical whatever bugs while her man is puffing out his chest atop the nearest little mound of dirt.
Meanwhile, back at the dirt mound, Mr. Gambel’s is still standing tall (most of the time) and surveying his kingdom. I didn’t manage to get any good shot of the juveniles in the covey, but the copper topped Daddy Bird wanted to be sure he made the cover of Quail R Us magazine…or at least this website. He also said I could quit captioning the photos; his awesome photos speak for themselves. A self confident dude, definitely.
Interesting Gambel’s quail trivia tidbit: The youngsters eat more insects than anything else, gradually transitioning to seeds and other vegetable matter as they mature. The chicks are very precocious, however, able to follow their mother around within hours of hatching, feeding themselves as they go. Which sounds like these birds have figured out this parenting thing, for sure. Beats changing dirty diapers like we humans do (for years!) or, for that matter, regurgitating food for squawking nest bound chicks in the fashion of many other birds. And an early diet of squiggly insects tickling one’s throat…hey, can’t be much worse than some of that stuff we bottle and call baby food.
Anyway, this author was blessed with the photo opportunity provided by the Gambel’s quail foraging near the Border Fort. Sharing was mandatory.