Out and about with California quail

Now's the time to spot this symbol of California's robust spirit

by on August 17, 2012

 
Quail on guard. Photo by Jen Joynt.
 

 

The California quail is the inspiration for a San Francisco restaurant that just made America’s top new eating house —  the whimsically named State Bird Provisions.

Fortunately, the official state bird is not actually on the menu because it numbers fewer than a dozen individuals in San Francisco today, given the loss of brush habitat and the influx of predators such as feral cats and raccoons.

But that’s not to say that California quail can’t be found elsewhere. Now’s a good time to spot them. As summer winds down, these gregarious birds begin to form large flocks, known as coveys. Reaching numbers of 75 or more, the quails will stay in their coveys throughout the fall and winter, and it’s a time when they are most endearing. Snuggling together when they roost, covey members provide each other with the vital body warmth needed to survive cold winter nights.

Marching out together in the early morning and late afternoon, the quails also forage in coveys rather than venturing solo. Many sets of eyes not only increases each member’s chance of finding food—calling to each other when seed, insects or fruit are in sight—but it also enhances their safety, as each member alerts the entire flock the instant danger is detected.

Named California’s state bird in 1931, the California quail is a symbol of abundance, highly prized as game throughout California and Oregon as well as in places like Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand, where it has been introduced to placate hunters.

Often seen scratching through the dry vegetation of chaparral and coastal sage brush, California quail are generally a robust species with high reproductive rates—one nest can contain as many as 28 eggs. However, since these quails build their nests in grasslands or at the base of trees, their clutches easily fall victim to predation, especially in areas where refuse left in parks attracts unusually large populations of rodents and small carnivores.

Check out photographer Jen Joynt’s snaps of California quail from the Tennessee Valley in West Marin.

Time for a bath. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
Time for a bath. Photo by Jen Joynt.
A bold juvenile quail. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
A bold juvenile quail. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Quail on guard. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
Quail on guard. Photo by Jen Joynt.
It's a quail balance beam. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
It's a quail balance beam. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Quail chick safe with its mother. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
Quail chick safe with its mother. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Young quail in a perch. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
Young quail in a perch. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Female quail takes a rest. Photo by Jen Joynt.
Caption
Female quail takes a rest. Photo by Jen Joynt.

Courtney Quirin is a Bay Nature editorial intern. 


Nature news junkie? Get our weekly news digest!

 

2 comments:

Terry on August 17th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Oh thank you for the great pics! I used to live where quail came through my yard regularly but I had to move and I really miss seeing them. I have planted natives so maybe they’ll find their way to me!

trish on August 22nd, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I enjoyed your photos.Growing up in Texas I had the opportunity to see a mother and babies in there natural habitat. Truely, wish people would not eat them. Thanks again!

Leave a Comment

Name

Email

Website

Comment

 
 
Coyote Days of Summer Sale: 15% off subscriptions