Birds – California Quail And Relatives

Another and larger genus of crested Quails is Lophortyx, the six or seven forms of which are distributed from Washington through Oregon, California, and well into western Mexico. The sexes, unlike the last genus, are very different in coloration. The beautiful California Quail (L. californicus) is one of the handsomest and best known of the Pacific coast game birds. About nine and a half inches long, the male has the crest and throat black, the latter with white margins, the mantle olive-brown, chest and tail gray, and the abdomen with black scale-like markings, and a central spot of chestnut, while the flanks are olive-brown, with white streaks. The female, on the other hand, has the head without the black and white markings, the prevailing color being smoky brownish, and the abdomen lacks the chestnut patch.

“Their favorite haunts,” says Bendire, ” are the undergrowth and thickets along water courses, brush-covered side hills and canyons, frequenting the roads, cultivated fields, vineyards, and edges of clearings to feed. It is a constant resident, and breeds wherever found.” When not molested, they become very tame, almost domesticated, coming frequently to the vicinity of dwellings, and nesting and rearing the young among the shrubbery near by, but as with other birds, constant persecution has made them shyer. Formerly it is said to have been a not uncommon sight to see flocks of five hundred or more together, but in late years coveys of fifty are as large as it is usual to find. It is a pleasing sight to see them running about among the shrubbery or scurrying into the hedgerows from a dust bath in the road. Their nest is a very slight affair, being simply a hollow scratched in the ground at the base of a stump, in a pile of brush, or a thicket of grass and weeds, and occasionally the eggs may be placed in a hen’s nest in the chicken house. From twelve to sixteen creamy white, spotted or blotched eggs constitute a set. A paler, grayer colored race, known as the Valley Partridge (L. c. vallicola), is found in the interior districts of California and Oregon, ranging south through the peninsula to Lower California, where it often occurs in great numbers. Similar to these but with the flanks chestnut streaked with white, and the abdomen with a central black patch, but without the scale-like markings, is the Gambel’s Partridge (L. gambeli) which ranges from northwestern Mexico through western Texas to southeastern California and Nevada. It frequents much the same sort of country as does the Scaled Partridge and in many localities is found with it. It is in many places a very abundant species, and is one of the few game birds that has apparently increased since the advent of civilization, in fact it is said to have become a nuisance to farmers in the vicinity of the Salt and Gila rivers, Arizona. A subspecies of this, known as the Buff-breasted Partridge (L. g. fulvipectus), has been recently described from southwestern Sonora. It differs mainly from Gambel’s Partridge in its generally darker and more intense colors and larger bill. In western Mexico occurs another species, the Elegant Partridge (L. elegans), which may be known by having the crest pale rufous and the throat white spotted with black; and in southeastern Mexico are two little species only about seven and a half inches in length, which have been referred to a distinct though very closely related genus (Philortyx). They have the tail shorter than any of the others just mentioned, and the sexes are similar in plumage, this being much banded with black and white or dusky and whitish. In the Banded Partridge (P. fasciatus) the cheeks, chin, and throat are white and the bill black, while in the Black-faced Partridge (P. personatus) these areas are black and the bill brownish.