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Learn About the Gambel's Quail

Updated on January 23, 2019

An Introduction to Gambel's Quail

Gambel's Quail is a ground dwelling bird, found predominantly in the South-West deserts of North America.

It is surely one of the cutest birds I have ever seen, with it's rotund little body and black plumage. This page looks at the Gambel's Quail and how you can identify the bird, it's history and characteristics.


Facts about Gambel's Quail; distribution, characteristics and habits

  1. Gambel's Quail has a pear shaped plump body, with short legs and small roundish wings. Both sexes are grey with buff colouring on their belly. They have scaly markings of flecks of chestnut and white on the lower half of their wings. The male has a chestnut head, with a black face, throat and plumage and a white stripe above his eyes. The male also has a black bib on his stomach. The female has similar body markings but more subdued and with a brown head and plumage.

  2. The average length of Gambel's Quail is 11 inches (30 cm) with a wingspan of 14-16 inches (35-40 cm). They weigh an average 6 ounces.

  3. Gambel's Quail move primarily by walking, and can run surprisingly fast. They can fly, but only for short distances and their flight is many fast wingbeats and a glide to the ground to land. They are a non migratory bird.

  4. Gambel's quail look similar to the California quail, to tell the difference can be tricky. The California quail does not have the black bib on the stomach and more scale feather markings than the Gambel's quail.

  5. In summer, fall and winter these birds form colonies called "coveys", of about 20 or more birds. In March the birds pair off for mating, and become aggressive towards other pairs. The female makes a shallow nest on the ground, near foliage or at a base of a rock or tree to conceal it and lined with feathers and leaves. She will lay about 10 - 15 eggs which hatch at the same time 3 weeks after laying. The chicks are down covered upon hatching and leave the nest soon after. Life expectancy is around 1 and half years.

  6. Gambel's Quail is found in the Sonora Desert of Arizona and Mexico, Southern New Mexico, California, Utah, Texas and Nevada. They are seen near desert shrub land and near water sources. It eats seeds, berries and fruits from the plants found in these areas. They obtain most of their water from their food.

  7. The main predator of the Gambel's Quail are humans, who hunt the bird in mid October to mid February and have a bag limit of 15 birds. Other predators include the Bobcat, Cotton Rats, Hawks and King snakes. Gambel's Quails flee from danger by running into cover, under bushes.

Gambel's Quail. A pair at Indianapolis Zoo, USA.
Gambel's Quail. A pair at Indianapolis Zoo, USA. | Source
Gambel's quail nest
Gambel's quail nest | Source

Who was Gambel?

Gambel Quails take their name from William Gambel, an American naturalist in the 19th Century. He discovered these quails on a trip to California in 1841, where he journeyed along the Sante Fe Trail and Old Spanish Trail. If you want to read more about William Gambel, check out this article: Gambel's Life: Brief but Brilliant

I defy you not to think Quails are cute after seeing this!

© 2011 LadyFlashman

Are Gambel's Quails too cute to eat?!

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    • alexandradouglas profile image

      Alexandra Douglas 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I love the Gambel and Valleys. I will be looking for more eggs shortly in the Gambel's. My Valleys are laying like crazy though and fertility is great.

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 

      8 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Bird lovers watch birds. Then they can come back to see them again.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Such cute birds. This lens has been blessed and added to my animal alphabet lens.

    • profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 

      9 years ago

      I don't think that I could ever eat one unless there were no other options

    • Shoputopian profile image


      10 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

      Their to cute to eat, loved the lens lots of information...

    • justholidays profile image


      10 years ago

      Eeek!What? Eating these beautiful Gambel's Quails???? Oh my... Just hope nobody did.

      By the way, I love that plush bird featured in the right sidebar!


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