California Quail

California Quail by Skip Russell

Is there anything cuter than watching California Quail parents stroll into your backyard with a covey of young to eat millet or cracked corn and drink water from your birdbath?

The blue-gray male with topknot looks quite distinguished.  The female is grayer, and her plume is much shorter.

Although the California Quail is not native to all the northwest, its game-bird status means it has been widely introduced.  It can now be found in all open brush and farmland areas.  Brush is essential to this bird for cover and shelter, and elimination of habitat is its greatest threat.  While their main home is scrubby country, with clearings to provide plenty of weed seeds, they can be found in suburbs.  They are especially attracted to ponds and ground birdbaths.

In the wild, California Quail eat leaves, seed, fruit, and some insects, spiders and snails.  They have regular feeding habits, visiting favorite places in the morning and evening.  Cracked corn sprinkled on the ground or in a platform feeder may make these birds regular backyard visitors.  California Quail are quiet birds, mainly using their voices to bring the flock together after a disturbance.

Spring is the only season when California Quail do not live in coveys.  The coveys break up for nesting.  Eggs are laid in a grass-lined hollow under a bush, among weeds, or beside a log.  They have one brood of 12 to 16 cream-colored eggs per season.