BNA Account Authors: Brown, David E., Julie C. Hagelin, Mark Taylor, and Jill Galloway
A popular game bird in the American Southwest, Gambel's Quail¿sometimes called the Arizona Quail, Desert Quail, or Valley Quail¿is a favorite of hunters and suburban dwellers alike. Its jaunty plumed topknot, carried by both sexes, its gregarious nature, and its distinctive gathering calls all make for ready identification. Few if any desert birds are better known, and this logo of the Arizona Game and Fish Department symbolizes the Sonoran Desert almost as much as the saguaro cactus and gila monster.
The Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, is the bird's metropolis, with the species extending into all contiguous states. Like its relatives¿the California (Callipepla californica), Elegant (C. douglasii), and Scaled (C. squamata) quails¿Gambel's Quail tends to run and hide in dense undergrowth rather than fly when pursued. And like other quail, it is a gregarious bird that forms family coveys, which in turn may form large winter aggregations containing several dozen birds. More than 90% of this species' diet is composed of plant parts, particularly legumes.
A "boom-and-bust" species, Gambel's Quail reproductive rates fluctuate markedly from year to year depending on the amount of green feed available in the spring. Population levels are therefore strongly influenced by the amounts of winter-spring rainfall; dry years yield few young birds. As a consequence, population levels in any given year may vary from low to very abundant depending on habitat quality, past population levels, carryover, and the current year's reproductive success. The mean life expectancy of a Gambel's Quail is only about 1.5 years.
Even though this species was studied intensively between 1930 and 1970, much remains to be learned about Gambel's Quail, especially the effects of the following: water development and livestock-grazing on survival and reproduction; late-season hunting on overwintering mortality; changes in nonnative annual vegetation on the bird's reproductive cycle; increases in range fires on population levels; and competition with other quail species on population dynamics;. Breeding behavior also needs more study. Furthermore, little is known about variation in Gambel's Quail social systems under different environmental conditions.
Help author an account about this species from a Neotropical perspective.
Quail, any of roughly 130 species of small short-tailed game birds classified in the families Phasianidae and Odontophoridae (order Galliformes), resembling partridges but generally smaller and less robust. The 95 species of Old World quail are classified in Phasianidae in either of two subfamilies, Phasianinae or Perdicinae. New World quail—at least 32 species whose members more nearly resemble Old World partridges—constitute the family Odontophoridae.
Quail prefer open country and brushy borders. In spring the hen lays about 12 roundish eggs, which the male may help incubate. The young remain with their parents the first summer. Quail eat mainly seeds and berries but also take leaves, roots, and some insects. Their flesh is considered a delicacy, as are their eggs.
New World quail have stronger bills than do the Old World forms, and none has leg spurs. The bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) of North America exists in about 20 races from southern Canada to Guatemala. Its name is suggestive of its call. Other than the bobwhite, North American quail include two important game birds introduced widely elsewhere: the California, or valley, quail (Callipepla californica) and Gambel’s, or desert, quail (Lophortyx gambelii). Both species have a head plume (larger in males) curling forward.
Ranging farther east in North America is the scaled, or blue, quail (Callipepla squamata). Grayish, with scaly markings and a white-tipped crest, it is the fastest quail afoot, with running speeds measured at 24 km (15 miles) per hour. The mountain, or plumed, quail (Oreortyx pictus), gray and reddish with a long straight plume, is perhaps the largest New World quail, weighing as much as 0.5 kg (about 1 pound). The singing, or long-clawed, quail (Dactylortyx thoracicus), of Central America, has a musical call. The tree quail, or long-tailed partridge (Dendrortyx macroura), of Mexico, is a 33-cm (13-inch) bird of almost grouselike proportions. Wood quail—large birds of the genus Odontophorus—are the only phasianids widely distributed in South America; they are forest dwellers.
Old World quail are smallish plain birds, shorter and stockier than their New World counterparts. The bill edge is smooth, and the legs, in many, are spurred. Best known is Coturnix coturnix, the common quail of Europe, Asia, and Africa; it is the only migratory galliform bird. Small quail sometimes classified as Excalfactoria, rather than Coturnix, include the blue quail (C. adamsoni), only 13 cm (5 inches) long, of eastern Africa. India has dwarf partridges, usually called bush quail, of the genus Perdicula.