Hello, everyone and thank you for joining me for this special August edition of In Scope. As the end of summer is drawing near, the focus for birds is shifting from raising a family to preparing for their yearly fall migration. Even year round resident birds are either stocking up on food for the winter or preparing to move a few miles away to another place where fall and winter food is more plentiful.
One of these birds is our lovely California Quail that we see raise their families in our area every spring and summer. August and sometimes September are usually the last months we get to enjoy them. Although they do not migrate long distances, they do move a few miles away when the season changes from summer to fall. They move back into the area when spring comes again.
The other night we saw a California Quail pair run across the road as we were coming back home from a walk/bike ride. It was good to see them still around ~ that means we have a little more time to enjoy them before they settle into to their fall and winter home.
Before we say "See you next year !" to the California Quail along with so many other birds ~ I'd like to share with you some of my most favorite things about this fascinating species. This month, you'll also learn how to attract California Quail to your garden ~ you never know, they may be move out of my neighborhood and into yours this fall !
Did you know....
A topknot is the apostrophe shaped feather plume on the top of the California Quail's head. The topknot may look like one feather, but it actually consists of six feathers that overlap one another. Both male and female California Quail have a topknot, but the male's topknot is larger.
California Quail families often feed in "coveys" or small flocks. After the breeding season however, they have been observed gathering in large coveys of seventy or more quail ! After all the chicks of each brood have hatched, families may merge into one large group and the young are raised by all the parents. The quail who intermingle with other families to raise their young have been found to live longer that the ones who raise their chicks alone. There really is strength in numbers !
Although they can live in very dry conditions, California Quail need water to drink during long, hot periods. But when the weather is cool, they can stay hydrated from the insects and moist succulent vegetation they eat.
California Quail have been introduced to many new places, meaning that they have been brought to live in places where they were not a native species. Their original range was from Southern Oregon to Baja, California. California Quail were introduced to the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the United States including Hawaii. One of the earliest known shipments of California Quail (to introduce the birds to other areas) was in 1857. They also now live in many other places like Australia, Germany, Argentina and Chile.
The California Quail is California's State Bird.
God Thought of It First !
You've probably picked up a dozen eggs at the store many times. Maybe you've even used the phrase "a dime a dozen", referring to something that is very common. But did you know that God created the female California Quail to lay 12 - 16 eggs per brood and raise over a dozen babies in a season and sometimes twice that amount if they raise more than one brood in a year ? That's right, God thought of eggs (and chicks :) by the dozen first, long before we humans started raising chickens and selling eggs in neatly packed cartons !
Feeding and Gardening For California Quail
When it comes to creating a garden habitat for quail, this species is easy to please. The main considerations when gardening and feeding quail is that they are mainly ground dwelling birds, except for when they roost in trees at night. Because of this quail appreciate dense ground cover and if you want to set up a quail feeding station, ground level tray feeders or simply feeding on the ground is best to suit their needs. Here are some suggestions of just a few of the many things you can do to attract California Quail to your yard.
When gardening for quail, think, "Ground cover, ground dwelling, ground feeding". Because California Quail can fly well, but prefer to walk or run, you should keep these basic needs in mind when choosing what plants to add to your garden for quail. Here is a list of some good plant choices.
Pumpkins, Squash or Zucchini (Any variety or similar vine like ground cover plants with big leaves for cover.)
I must digress from my list of recommended plants for a moment just to show you how effective plants such as these are in inviting your quail friends to come and stay in your garden habitat. One summer we while we were growing a large sugar pumpkin patch, we discovered the pumpkin vines provided cover and shade from the summer heat for ground birds like the California Quail. The Quail enjoyed the cover these plants provided and even took naps under the broad leaves of the pumpkin vines.
The babies would scurry around after their Mom and Dad in and out of the pumpkin patch. They often roosted in the cool dirt beneath the leaves of the pumpkins. Once the pumpkin patch got very large, we even had to be careful not to douse our quail friends with water in the process of watering the pumpkins plants because the large leaves hid the quail so well ! The only tell-tale sign that the quail were resting beneath the vines was a soft peeping sound that the chicks often made to keep in contact with their parents.
The Quail benefited so much from the pumpkin plants and we got to enjoy their presence all summer and watch their babies grow up ! For this reason, I would recommend pumpkin vines to anyone who wants a dual purpose plant that will serve an important purpose for both you and wildlife
The California Quail enjoying the pumpkin patch ~ Photo By, Jessi Wasell
Here are some other plants California Quai enjoy for cover and/or for food:
Rhododendrons (or similar shrubs for cover)
Berry Bushes (raspberries, blackberries etc. for food and cover)
Salal (for berries and cover)
Roses (for cover and rosehips for food)
A birdseed or grain patch containing ~
Buckwheat, Milo, Corn, Millet, Wheat
A Wild Corner (You can let a corner of your yard "go wild" for a great quail habitat filled with weed seeds for the birds to eat. Quail enjoy weed seeds like grass seeds, dandelion, ragweed, etc. Tall grasses and weeds also provide great cover.)
California Quail do not have expensive taste when it comes to the feeder treats they enjoy. Some of the most inexpensive and common bird foods top the list of favorite feeder foods on the California Quail's menu. Just make sure to offer quail foods on or near the ground and buy in bulk if you have a large crowd ! Here are just a few suggestions for recommended quail foods.
Cracked corn (or even whole kernel or corn on the cob)
Oats (Rolled or whole ~ even Cheerios or other unsweetened oat cereal crumbled in smaller pieces will be enjoyed by quail.)
Bird seed mixes (Just make sure they include white millet or cracked corn or both ~ quail also like sunflower seeds but will usually only eat them if they are mixed with other kinds of seeds that they prefer more.)
Plenty of water is always a good thing when planning a habitat for birds. For quail, a low ground level bird bath or garden pool is best, since they like to spend most of their time on the ground.Zoom In: Species Profile