Monday, June 1, 2020

Gambel's Quail

Gambel's quail is found in the deserts of Arizona (southern and western), California (southeastern), Colorado (portions of western and southwestern), New Mexico (southwestern), Nevada (southeastern), Utah (portions of southern), Texas (extreme southwestern) and the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Baja California. 
The male has a comma-shaped forward-facing crest on a cinnamon-brown crown, and a black face with a white stripe outlining the black face. Much of their plumage is bluish-gray. It has a creamy buff belly with a black central patch and a chestnut patch on the sides. Females are plain gray on the head and neck (no cinnamon-brown crown or black face) and do not have the black belly patch. 

The word "quail" as a verb means "fear," "wince," or to "draw back in pain" and recognizes the quail's fear of both human and animal predators. When a human approaches they run quickly or take a short flight to get out of the way. This is largely why they are so difficult to photograph. The photos I took were near Corn Springs, in the Chuckwalla Mountains of California. They are of males, from my car, making it easier to photograph them because you can approach them quicker, but they were still running and flying away. I saw females and young chicks, but was not able to get even reasonably good photos of them. 

They are named in honor of William Gambel, who took the Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe in 1841, then took the Old Spanish Trail to California later that year and engaged in botany and bird studies. Two birds are named after him: the Gambel's quail (Callipepla gambelii) and mountain chickadee (Parus gambeli). The genus of leopard lizards, Gambelia, is also named after him. He died of typhoid in a Yuba River mining camp in 1849 trying to treat ill miners. 

1 comment:

  1. I had never put together their name "quail" with their behavior. Interesting! I love spotting these and their cousins, California quail, scurrying away as quickly as they can.