Gambel’s Quail

So I managed to get a single picture of a quail walking through some brush as we were driving through the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge outside of Roswell, New Mexico a couple of years ago.

Once I got the pictures on the camera, I was able to spot the quail–can you spot it? (Answer will be highlighted closer to the bottom of the page).

Gambel’s quail walking through the brush

Getting this picture of the Gambel’s quail marks the first (and so far only) time I’ve managed to get a picture of a quail.

The Gambel’s quail is a plump bird (size somewhere between that of a robin and crow–though this one leans more towards the crow size), that has a short neck, small bill, and a square tail. In addition, they have a comma-shaped topknot that is fuller in males than females.

It was noticing the topknot that helped me distinguish the Gambel’s quail from the initial thought of it being a Scaled quail (which has a crest on the top of its head).

The males have ‘brighter’ coloring than the females, though they both have patterns in gray, chestnut, and cream that serve as camouflage in the arid regions they call home.

Their main range is within the Sonora, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts in the American Southwest and Mexico. Though they can also be found in parts of the Great Basin as well.

Gambel’s quail range map. Map (c) birds of the world.

Most quails are shy birds that you have to be on the lookout for. Depending on the time of day (and location), you can probably see teh quail in groups on the ground feeding, or moving quickly between bushes. They’re easier to spot either earlier or later in the day (when the temperatures are a little cooler), and they usually spend the midday resting in shaded spots.

I was very lucky to get a picture of single quail, though it could be a scout, or maybe one who woke from their nap later than the others?

Did you spot the quail yet? If not–here is the answer:

Highlighted Gambel’s Quail

The diet of the Gambel’s quail consists mainly of plants: seeds, leaves, and berries. Berries are a larger part of thier diet during the summer and fall months, where the quail will feed on the fruits of various cactus including: cholla, saguaro, and prickly pear.

During the spring and through the peak of nesting, the quail will also feast on insects. After hatching the young quail will feed exclusively on beetles, small worms, caterpillars, and grasshoppers for several days.

It should be noted that while their ‘natural habitat’ is the arid southwest, they also be spotted on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, along with the islands of Lanai and Kaho’olawe. They were introduced by the Hawaii division of Fish & Game in the 1950s & 1960s to various game farms. While not widespread–they can still be spotted on three of the islands.