In Scope: California Quail

california quail drawing


And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20


    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 !

  Interesting Facts

    Did you know.... 



God Thought of It First !

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.

White Millet

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.)

Bread crumbs


    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


                                A female California Quail ~ Photo By, Jessi Wasell

    The California Quail's scientific name is Callipepla californica.  This species is in the Phasianidae family and is 9-11 inches long.

The male and female California Quail look different from one another.  The male is predominately a slate blue gray hue.  He is an exquisitely patterned bird with a black face framed in white markings.  He has a tan forehead and a black and brown crest topped with a black topknot.  His chest, wings, back and tail are also blue gray or taupe gray in color with a black and white barred 'scale' like pattern on his belly.  He also has an auburn patch on the center of his belly.  On his neck is a beautiful black and white speckled pattern.

  The female California Quail is less brilliantly colored.  She is mostly a brown, taupe color and shares the same  complex barred pattern on her belly, except in brown and white.  The female lacks the auburn chest patch seen on the male and she has a brown and white speckled neck.  Her topknot is also black, but smaller than the male's.  She is a demur little creature with feminine movements and expressions.

Young California Quail look very similar to the female at first, except for the fact that their topknots are smaller and brown instead of black.  If you've ever had the privilege of seeing a quail family raise their young ~ you can see as the chicks mature which are males and which are females.

The nest of the California Quail is a bowl shaped depression on the ground which is lined with grasses.  The female lays 12 - 16 creamy colored eggs spotted with brown.  The young are precocial and are able to follow their parents and forage soon after hatching.

The preferred habitat of the California Quail is brushy thickets, country roadsides with tall grasses and dense shrubbery, parks, gardens and suburban and rural areas.  A yard or garden full of dense cover, food and water makes an ideal California Quail habitat.

The California Quail's call is loud and unmistakable ~ some say it sounds like "Chi-CA-go !" with the second note of their call always more high pitched than the first or third notes.  The adults also make clucking sounds and the chicks make a 'peep, peep' sound to keep in contact with their parents.

Originally from Southern Oregon and the State of California, the California Quail was introduced into the Pacific Northwest many years ago.  Now they have a wider distribution in the Western United States, Hawaii and other parts of the world including Europe and New Zealand and parts of South America.  They are year round residents within their range, but may move a few miles from their summer homes to find more abundant food sources elsewhere for the fall and winter.



This month I've created a California Quail coloring page for you to enjoy.  Also included in the activities, you'll find an introductory math page from my Molly Math Bird series of work sheets for young children to give you a sample of what will be available here at Wasell Gardens in the coming school year.  Both of these activities are available in a downloadable free PDF.  Just click here to download, print and enjoy !


    When I observe the California Quail families that visit our yard each year, one of my favorite things is to watch how the male California Quail guards his family as they go about foraging in peace and safety.  While the mother and their chicks forage on the ground below, the father will sit on a fence post or on a tree branch above them and watch for any approaching danger.  He will call out to his family and gather them together to protect them under cover if he sees any potential threats.  The young hide themselves under their parents fluffy feathers or under dense cover until the danger has passed.  Sometimes the female will take over the guard duty while the male forages ~ but the male is more often seen standing guard.

    Its so sweet to watch the mother and father quail protect each other and their chicks.  It reminds me of how God protects us from harm and any danger even when we do not see it or know its there.  He promises in His Word to protect us and keep us when we are obedient to Him and walking in His ways.  Psalm 91 is one of my favorite psalms as it talks about God's protection for His children.  I'll close with it here.

    Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by God All Powerful.

    I will say to The Lord, "You are my place of safety and protection.  You are my God and I trust You."

    God will save you from hidden traps and from deadly diseases.

    He will protect you like a bird spreading its wings over its young.

    His truth will be like your armor and shield.

    You will not fear any danger by night or an arrow during the day.

    You will not be afraid of diseases that come in the dark or sickness that strikes at noon.

    At your side 1,000 people may die, or even 10,000 right beside you.  But you will not be hurt.

    You will only watch what happens.  You will see the wicked punished.

    The Lord is your protection.  You have made God Most High your place of safety.

    Nothing bad will happen to you.  No disaster will come to your home.

    He has put His angels in charge of you.  They will watch over you wherever you go.

    They will catch you with their hands.  And you will not hit your foot on a rock.

    You will walk on lions and cobras.  You will step on strong lions and snakes.

    The Lords says, "If someone loves me, I will save him.  I will protect those who know Me.

    They will call to me, and I will answer them.  I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue them and honor them.

    I will give them a long, full life.  They will see how I can save."

                                               ~ Psalm 91 ICB


    Thanks for joining me for In Scope this month as we savor the rest of summer.  I hope you'll check back in September as we take a closer look at one of our most flamboyant and beautiful birds of the forest that lives in our area year round.  That's right, I'm talking about the Pileated Woodpecker.  We'll also embrace the Autumn season with an all new Fall Garden Plan and ideas for making your garden a haven for wildlife in this coming fall.  You'll also find new Kid's Pages for September, October and November to start of the new school year off by learning more about God's Creation.  Until next time, Happy Summer Birding !

        By, Jessi Wasell