Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the the May 10, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

Each morning soon after dawn and each evening soon before dusk a male and female pair of California Quail, LOPHORTYX CALIFORNICUS, make their rounds visiting my friends' backyard and birdfeeder area. If you're outside, first you hear their expressive but tentative call, a second-long k-k-k-KOI, and then you wait until they come walking, never flying, pecking here and there, looking around, watching hard for the cat. If they see you moving about they'll run away -- again, never flying. These birds simply don't care to fly. Wednesday just before dusk I was waiting for them with my camera. They saw me but I didn't move a hair, and for this they granted me the picture above.

Especially to Easterners whose only quail is the Bobwhite, the black plume atop the California Quail's head makes it a remarkable species. In western North America, however, four quail species sport some kind of topknot. Still, you just have to say that the California Quail is one of the handsomest birds you can ever hope to see. In the picture the male is in the lead while the female with her smaller plume follows.

Usually the pair finds three or four spots in the backyard especially worthy of spending extra time pecking in. Then the male mounts a nearby high spot, raises his head high and intently watches all around as the female takes her time feeding below. You can see a close-up of the intensely watchful male below.


California Quail are distributed from southwestern British Columbia south through Washing, Oregon and California through Baja in Mexico, plus here and there a little farther west.