Starker Leopold, a noted conservationist, once wrote, “There is no more delightful bird to have around the yard than the California Quail.” I’ve never been much of a birder, but I’m captivated by the two quail families that live on our property. I find myself listening for their call, searching out the male sentry and sneaking around for a glimpse of the chicks.
I can pick out the morning assembly call: Chi-co-go, often crowed from our neighbor’s rooftop or the pool wall. Out scurries another male with a couple of older chicks. They forage near the swing set, by the pool, eventually retiring in the shade of the side yard. The boys and I have spent many a minute listening and watching.
In the same area we’ve seen a male, female and three newly hatched chicks, who are tiny compared to the other “babies.” I’m wondering if the same female laid two clutches of eggs this year, a twice a decade occurrence. This would explain why the older chicks might be tended by Daddy and a benevolent uncle. Or perhaps the pair lost their first nest to pesky ground squirrels. We had a lot of them running around this warm winter.
I’ve tried to get pictures of our quail, but the males are fantastic watchmen. When they see me they shout a warning: pit-pit! Then — hurry scurry — everyone dives for cover. I now understand why wildlife photographers own telephoto lenses.
If you want to learn more about the quail, the California State Bird, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for video, audio and more. If you enjoy birding, you can report sightings and peruse data at eBird.