Quails belong to the order Galliformes and both the Phasianidae and Odontophoridae families. Quail are mid-sized birds with short tails, commonly known as game birds.
In North America, there are six native species of quails. The six species are the California quail, the mountain quail (largest quail), the Gambel’s quail, the Montezuma quail (smallest quail), the scaled quail, and the Northern bobwhite.
There are thought to be 95 Old-world quail species in the world. The 95 Old-world quail species are classified into subfamilies of Phasianinae or Perdicinae. However, most of the 32 members of the New-world quail species constitute the family Odontophoridae.
The size, shape, and color depend on the species. Although the quail’s color generally matches their environment, they are usually brown-colored birds with dark brown or black patches. Some with banding can be found. The male is generally more colorful than the female.
Habitat of the Quail
A wide variety of habitats in the different regions and continents can be found where quail make their nest. A quail’s habitat preference varies from species to species, although many species share the same range and habitat.
Quail can be found in many habitats, including grasslands, meadows, savannas, and tall grasses, although agricultural fields and farmland are common areas where quail live.
Distribution Of The Quail
Quail are found in North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa but not in Antarctica. However, not all continents or regions are suitable for the habitat of each species of quail.
North America’s environment is suitable for New-world quails, while Old-world quails generally live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Diet Of The Quail
Most species of quail have a similar diet, although there is some variation between species. Some species are herbivorous and eat only plants, while some are omnivorous, eating both plants and insects. Generally, quail will eat seeds, berries, grasses, buds, and more. They will also prey on spiders, beetles, worms, insect larvae, ants, and small invertebrates.
Behavior Of The Quail
Different species of quail exhibit different types of behavior. Some are solitary, while some prefer to live in small flocks. Most quail can be found on the ground during foraging to search for food. If scared, they prefer to have dense bushes and grasses to hide, although they will also find low trees to hide in.
Breeding System Of Quail
The quails’ breeding systems also depend on the individual species. Different species follow different reproductive strategies. The breeding period starts in the spring and lasts until autumn.
The female quails lay eggs and will incubate them until they hatch. Usually, a female quail lays at least 20 eggs in a single nest though some species lay large clutches of eggs.
The most popular quail, the California quail, is also commonly known as the valley quail.
The California quail male is marked with white and black on the head and can be distinguished by a chocolate color crown and a crest shaped like a comma. They have barred underparts and a blue breast.
The California quail is native to California but can be found in Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
They can be found primarily on the ground in search of food. The California quail is mainly a seed eater. They also eat leaves, flowers, catkins, grain, and invertebrates like caterpillars, beetles, and mites.
The Mountain quail is a gray, white and chestnut-colored plump bird. They are known as elusive birds that can be found in the western scrub and highlands.
Among the six species of quail found in North America, the mountain quail is the largest bird. The mountain quail eats plants, insects, beetles, and ants. Although the mountain quail flourish in arid and wet habitats, they are seldom found in grassland.
A mountain quails diet includes small fruits, flowers, and seeds of many smaller plants. The breeding biology of the mountain quail is yet to be thoroughly researched, but according to records, the male attracts the female by presenting food using his flank and tail feather.
During the mating period, the male might present itself holding out its wings, cocking and fanning the tail, and flaring the feathers of the neck and flanks. Females are known to crouch in front of their potential mates.
Gambel’s quail, a gregarious desert bird, is decorated in gray, chestnut, and cream plumage.
Gambel’s quail’s habitat is mainly thorny and bushy vegetation deserts, including river valleys, creeks, washes, and oak woodlands of the high desert.
Gambel’s quail live on plants and seeds. They also eat leaves, shrubs, grasses, fruits, and prickly pear. They mainly depend on fruits in the summer and fall, while they eat insects in the spring, particularly during their nesting seasons.
Gambel’s quail are like to be found walking in groups on the ground. During their breeding period, these large groups break up and make new groups of juveniles and males.
The Montezuma quail is patterned with stripes and dots. The Montezuma quail are found mainly in grasslands-mountain and oak-woodlands of North America. They move slowly, usually not moving more than 150 feet per day. They move from one place to another in small family clusters and seldom form large groups.
Tubers and insects are their primary food, but they also eat acorns. Their mating is monogamous. However, 60% of the total population is male. This leads to one female getting two male partners. After mating, the female lays and incubates the eggs in various nests to raise the chicks.
The scaled quail can be found in desert grasslands, scrublands, undisturbed habitats, and parks. They eat mainly seeds, leaves, and fruits from the plants directly. Like other quail, their feeding time is in the morning and late afternoon. They make their nests on the ground using cactus, yucca, or small trees.
The breeding period of the scaled quail starts in April. During the breeding period, the males deliver a high-pitched repeated “whock!” to attract females. Their mating court display is known as “tidbitting.”
The Northern bobwhite is the most common small gamebird across the Eastern United States.
Their name comes not from their color but their call, which sounds like the words bob-white.
The male is brown above, with scaly white underneath. They have a white face with black around the eyes. The female is similar but has a creamy-colored face.
The Northern bobwhite can be found in grasslands and farms and mainly along the eastern half of the U.S.
For more information on quail and other birds of North America, I recommend the following field guides.