A Quail's Eye-View of Things
In the beginning ..
IT ALL began when I chipped my way through the eggshell and stumbled into the realm of birdlife.
I stood there blinking in the early morning sunlight, bewildered. It was all so strange, everything was frightening.
Instinctively, I knew mama. I snuggled into her, underneath her protective wing. There I was safe, I was loved. To me mama appeared so strong, so confident, it made me feel secure. Thus I spent the first few days of my life.
Though I did not realize it at the time, I was a male chick, and I had 4 brother chicks and 5 sister chicks. Since there is often 12-16 eggs in a clutch of quail chicks, ours was to be an average-size family. Please let me share with you some interesting things about my family.
All photos were taken by LaraineRose unless otherwise indicated.
Please do not duplicate unless you receive my permission.
Mama has a secret.
It's no secret that this is a Quail ~
but what secret does this Quail have?
I've got a secret. Can you guess what it is?
Can you guess this quail's secret?
First comes the eggs - Don't be fooled by the size of this egg - it's highly magnified!
And speaking of nests, I noted that the nest where I came on the scene was a depression scraped in the ground in the midst of a dense clump of undergrowth located under a bunch of beautiful, pink wild roses. It was lined with twigs, leaves and grass - very comfortable and well hidden from lurking enemies.
By observation I later learned that mama must have laid her ten, glossy cream-colored eggs with dark brown markings here. Solicitously she sat on them for twenty-two days until I broke upon the scene.
Photo Credit: Didier Descouens
Mama - On the Alert. - **She's hiding 10 chicks under her.**
I understand that during my incubation an incident occurred that might well have resulted in my not being hatched at all. Our nest was located near a field of pastureland in the Okanagan Valley, Canada. It was a stretch of uncultivated land strewn with rocks and covered with wild grasses and buckbrush. Dotted over the terrain were tall pine and birch trees. It was late in the afternoon as the sun began its swift descent. All was still and very quiet.
Suddenly, a stealthy movement in the grass nearby brought mama to full attention. With keen eyes penetrating the undergrowth, she spotted a huge black cat on the prowl. She froze to the nest, as it were, while the hungry-looking creature drew nearer. Mama's plumage merged with the background vegetation; she seemed invisible. The cat passed, stalking on toward the barn. Had mother been seen, it might well have been our end and hers, mother quail refuse to abandon the nest even in the gravest danger.
Cat on the prowl! - Watch Out!
Sites and Sounds of California Quail - Listen for, "Chi-ca-go"
A bit noisy for a small plump-bodied bird!
Watch my cousins being hatched. - Whew!
If you think that we quail have an easy time of being hatched, well, just look at the difficulty that some of my cousins in the Bobwhite family are having! It's no cakewalk.
I had my mama to exercise me and keep me warm. These poor cousins need to stay in that contraption for 24 hours!
I really was a most fortunate fella!
We chicks learn fast.
We soon learned that papa was not the only mate that mama possessed. There were two of them! As a result when she feels we are ready to be left in the care of papa or our uncles and aunts, she may go off and lay a new clutch with a different male - a normal state of affairs when seen from the quail's-eye view of things.
I have lots of aunts and uncles and, being gregarious by nature, we like to flock together. Often a number of families will share the same tree for roosting. However, during the breeding season all of my uncles wander off in search of mates for themselves.
Quail are wide awake at the first light of dawn, but, rather than fly down to the ground immediately, we prefer to take our time, descending from limb to limb, shattering the morning silence with our loud cries that sound like "Chi-ca-go."
Right away we are interested in our breakfast cereals. Mama taught us chicks to look for our favorite delicacies. Mainly we feed on grass and grains. We have a benefactor who spreads out grain for us on his side-lawn. Fat, juicy insect steaks also figure on our menu, with here and there a tender worm. Papa and mama even dine on small snakes! Probably not a relishing thought if you do not have the quail's-eye view of things.
When day is done, in the early evening, we have supper and then seek out our perches in the reverse procedure, slowly climbing the "stairs" until we reach a satisfactory roost. We have the reputation of making a lot of fuss and noise as we settle down for the night.
Will buys birdseed in the 20-pound bag because he likes to encourage the quail to come back year after year to have their chicks. Nothing but the best for us birds!
This is the food Will puts out for us. - We appreciate it!
We are not as afraid of Will as we were at first.
We disappear into the tall bushes when Will scatters our feed
but we come out quickly when he is on his way back to the house.
Quail Parents Share Responsibilities - Here's a photo of Mama and Papa when they were young.
Of my parents, papa has by far the most colorful personality. Mama, on the other hand, knew how to match colors too. She chose a dress that blended with her surroundings while tending her nest and eggs. Probably she was kept so busy making nests, laying eggs, hatching them and tending the young, that she felt a pretty feathered dress was impractical. Papa, who did not share in incubation duties, had more time to don his handsome feathered crown and strut around.
Nevertheless, I must admit, papa was a shrewd guide to his flock. Contrary to appearances at times, he was always diligent in the watch for enemies - cats, eagles and men. His eyes and ears are so phenomenally sharp that it is rare that quail are caught. Of all the backyard populace, papa usually is the first to detect the approach of a cat. At such times of danger, we do not often take to our wings, though we can fly fast for short distances. Rather, we prefer to run swiftly along the ground.
MENTION OF ENEMIES reminds me of something that happened when I was only six months old. Some of us chicks were playing in the shade. One of the young males was making himself look ridiculous, trying to put on a premature courtship display. Ground squirrels scurried around and a little way off, a lone blue jay was quietly perched in an elderberry tree. In a nearby pine tree a group of crows were making raucous sounds. A few chicks were squabbling over a worm that one of them had captured. Abruptly, papa emitted a piercing squill that stopped us all in our tracks. Danger! We scattered in all directions. A soaring eagle appeared from nowhere, but thanks to papa's watchful care, no harm resulted.
Photo Credit: Will Borden - Fine Art America.
One little, two little, three little .. - Quail CheepersClick thumbnail to view full-size
For the first few months I was hardly distinguishable from my sisters. Our feathers were the same. At eight months it came time, under the quail system, to leave home and fend for myself. By this time I was developing my characteristic crest feathers. I was so proud of my black plume that drooped forward just like dad's. My sisters' shorter plumes were grey/brown which suited there coloring and were beautiful when seen from the quail's-eye view of things.
Gradually as the months passed I acquired an immaculate suit of feathers. I got to be fully grown, weighing 8.1 ounces and was almost seven inches from head to tail. I had matured and had the prospect of living to the ripe old age of six. I could look forward now, to an annual change of clothing, and perhaps even to be admired by human creatures who carry cameras instead of nets to trap me.
If you could only have a good look at me! Starting at my head, I am wearing a dark brown cap. I have a black face outlined with bold white stripes, brown flanks with white stripes and have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales on my belly. True, I have short legs but with them I can run like the wind. I'm not much of a flyer but I can do that too, if I need to.
A few of my family of 10 cheepers .. - And their mama.
When our annual procreation period begins, I set out in search of a prospective mate. As soon as I spot one I turn on all my charm. I don't dance around like some other of our kind but just stand before her with my chest jutting out. If I have to, I chase away any intruders .. that way it lets her know that I am interested. And it works, for I am hitched and by the end of April my mate moves with me and we are frequently separated from the covey. By late May we made ourselves invisible as we are very occupied with reproduction activities such as laying and incubation.
It is now July 25th and I am the proud papa-quail of 10 cute and cuddly chicks of my own.
Now I must teach them what I have learned to survive. To be adorable! Happily to many people I am adored as a cute, harmless bird not worth the work of dressing me for food. They think of me as a sort-of-pet. So quail hunters do not dare to carry on their nefarious work openly in their presence.
My Quail History - Yes, this is me!Click thumbnail to view full-size
But my story would not be complete without a little quail history. I suppose you know that many of my ancestors belonged to the pheasant family of birds. However, we have so many cousins that the experts have classified us under our own family name,"ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂOdontophoridae." Probably that is because our crest distinguishes us from our distant cousins.
Throughout our history we have always had difficulty in understanding things from the human viewpoint. For example, for millenniums in Israel we quail have been regarded as meat to eat. Now, today we are known as a popular game bird with as many as 1.2 million of us being shot every year in California alone. Not very nice to my way of thinking, but we are not becoming extinct because we have the exceptional habit of having large families.
Now, I must get back to my family, but I do hope that I have helped you to fully appreciate us quail and have helped you to get a quail's-eye view of things.
Family Photo: Just hatched. Up and running!
My Cousins - "Gambel" Quail - Humans have named them.
Look what I just got in the mail today - all the way from Tucson, Arizona, USA! It's a photo of my cousins and their chicks.
My male cousin's appearance is a little bit different than mine. He wears a rust colored cap and has a black patch on his lower breast that is absent on mine.
Everyone says how handsome I am, I think that he is very handsome too!
There are only three chicks in the photo but I imagine that he is the proud papa of another ten or so. We all like to have big families!
This page was awarded the Purple Star
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Update August 4, 2012
This lens was awarded Lens of The Day.
What an honor!
Thank you SquidTeam and all of those who helped make this happen!
Hi! I'm back on a very important mission .. - To show you how fast we grow!
I know that I have already said my farewells, but I thought I'd show you what my family looks like now. We quail grow very quickly. LR took a picture of us again today and here are my chicks along with a few of their cousins heading out to feed on some greens.
We had just finished taking a dust bath. I had to laugh, the larger and older cousins got down beside my chicks and dusted them as they had never been dusted before. I couldn't have done a better job of it myself and that too is my quail's-eye view of things!
A parting message!
Hey wait! Did you know that some of my distant cousins of the Coturnix family, actually lay eggs to market? Their mama doesn't look after her eggs like my mama does.
Now, while I have never tasted them, some humans enjoy pickled quail eggs. Apparently they are very tasty!
I assure you that all of my chick-eggs will be baby cheepers.
If I may slip a word or two in here before my loquacious quail speaks again, I'd like to thank everyone who visited, commented, squidliked and/or blessed this bit of quail-soliloquy.
I will try to visit you soon.
For all who peep at this page.
I will appreciate it if you will leave a comment.