Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quail

My theme for the A to Z challenge: Desert Canyon Living

California Quail is our state bird and with ravens the most common larger bird in the canyon. 

In spring, I see them in couples as I did when I took this photo. They walk around in pairs, never far from cover.

Those of you who read my post about hiking may remember my remark that my husband always seems to walk ahead; well the quail rooster does the same.

When their eggs hatch their family size increases from two to up to 25. Later in summer they join up with other families and form large groups, called coveys. That's when they sometimes cover our lawn, making it look like a cobblestone square in some old European city. 

In summer they often gather outside our bedroom window in the early morning. There are so many little quail chicks with their moms and dads hovering around, making sure they are OK.

This large rock in our yard frequently serves as a post for the sentry bird, a rooster that jumps up there to keep watch while the other birds forage. 

Like all little ones, baby quail love to play in the dirt. It gets muddy after I water the lawn and they burrow in the mud, about 10 at a time in a tiny space; they roll over, stretch their wings out, and have so much fun getting dirty. 

This picture is dark, but you can see a parade of quail 
marching right by the rabbit. 

One morning a few years ago, the resident road runner showed up. As soon as she came too close, the quail roosters and hens immediately formed a circle around the chicks. A few grownup quail moved toward the road runner and she stepped away. This was repeated several times until the road runner finally just walked away, slowly and nonchalantly as if she really couldn't care less. I have no photos of this interaction; it was very interesting to watch and I didn't want to miss anything, running for my camera.

The quail live in the juniper trees and that's where they take cover when faced with danger. Sometimes, if they don't feel too threatened, they just take off in a speedy walk that is the cutest sight. Their little round bodies aren't made for distance flight, but they can always make it to the nearest juniper to hide. If in real danger, they take off in flight suddenly and in different directions. There's an explosion of wings that makes a huge noise, designed to confuse predators. 

The California Quail chirp contentedly when all is right in their world. It's such an adorable sound and listening to it tends to make everything fine in my world too. They make their more familiar sound, "ca-CA-cow" or "come-HERE-now," when they gather their families. They get really loud and insistent with this call when some of their young ones straggle behind and don't come fast enough to please the grownups.  They are great birds, lots of fun to watch, and wonderful to wake up to on a summer morning.


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