Quail on Holiday

Stories live everywhere.

Mister Quail Takes a Walk

A week or so back, Jim and I witnessed a mini-drama right in our own backyard.  Our office has a large picture window facing east and a standard-sized window facing south.  My desk is on the north end of the office, so I get to enjoy aspects of both windows.  I guess that’s why I was the first to notice the flicker of movement –  greyish-brown against brown – of something running across the yard.

I focused and quickly identified a male Gambel’s quail.  They’re very distinctive with their reddish crests constrasting against body feathers in various shades of grey and brown highlighted with white.  A moment later, I spotted the more uniformly grey female, then, to my utter delight, two dusty little chicks.  I alerted Jim and we watched quite happily while this avian family foraged around our lilies and blanket flowers.

Then the drama started.  Mister Quail jumped up on our fence, obviously ready to move along.  Mrs. Quail fluttered after him a moment later.  The chicks were too small to make the jump and didn’t have developed enough wings to help them along.

Now, over the years, we’ve noticed that Mister Quail isn’t very bright.  Puzzles that his wife works out instantly frustrate him.  He’ll call after Mrs. Quail, “Dear!  Dear!  Where are you!”  And she cries, “I’m over here.  Go up and over.”   Mister Quail replies, “No!  No!  I can’t!”  Eventually, he hops down off the wall and rushes around, jumping back up onto the wall when the obstacle (a small barrier, much lower than jumps he has shown he can already make) has been bypassed.

Jim and I are both sure Mrs. Quail keeps Mister for his looks, because it’s certainly not for his brains.

Now, when the quail chicks couldn’t make the jump, they started peeping loudly for their parents.  Right off, we noticed two very different personalities.  Chick One tried to leap, using the cross pieces on the fence to get her high enough.  When she couldn’t get up, she ran up and down the length of the fence trying to find a gap.  Chick Two gave up much sooner.  He retreated under the sacred datura and cried for his parents to come to the rescue.

Eventually, Mrs. Quail came back.  First she tried to talk the chicks over the fence.  When that didn’t work, she came back and joined them.  We were astonished how quickly the panicked chicks calmed down once they were assured Mother was near.

Mister Quail was harder to convince the chicks couldn’t follow him.  Over and over he called “Who-hoo!  Who-hoo!”  However, when the family didn’t show up, he came back and joined the little flock.  They departed – presumably to the western edge of our yard where the fence boards aren’t so tightly fitted together – and we didn’t see them again for several days.

Then, on Monday as we were getting off our bikes after a ride, we saw them just down the street: Mister, Mrs., and both chicks.  Since then we’ve seen them out in the backyard several times.   They probably like being able to get fresh water from our tiny pond.  The chicks are now able to flutter over the fence, so that particular drama is concluded.

I wonder what the next one will be?


6 Responses to “Quail on Holiday”

  1. Paul Genesse Says:

    Quail are so beautiful, and found out the ancient Greeks would keep them as pets. I love how the babies follow the mother around in a little line.

  2. Dominique Says:

    Hahahaha! Jane, your description of Mister Quail cracks me up!

  3. Paul Says:

    Easy to see why you’re a writer, Jane. You gave each of these “characters” their own personalities. Great quail tail — er, tale.

  4. heteromeles Says:

    Gee, and I always thought the local (California) quail were smarter than that. Hmmph. Still, a great story. I always have mixed feelings when I startle a clutch of baby quail. They learn to fly so young, that when they take off, it’s like a bowl of popcorn popping, quail chicks flying everywhere while the adult clucks out a warning fromo somewhere up in the branches.

  5. Nicholas Wells Says:

    My family calls the baby quail “running eggs”, because at a distance, that’s what they look like. Little eggs running behind the adults.

    Though this tales reminds me of the Disney nature stories. And how Disney himself noted how nature had plenty of tales to tell if we only had the patience to watch at a discreet distance. You found a full story in 4 quail. Take notes. If you’re anything like me, something may simmer for a while until it bubbles over into a full blow idea.

    Plus it’s just great fun. 🙂

  6. janelindskold Says:

    I don’t know much about different varieties of quail, but maybe the CA version are smarter than the Gambel’s.

    The CA version seems to fly earlier than our chicks do.

    One time Jim and I were out on our bikes. We turned into a quiet side street and met up with the vision of at least four, probably more, adult quail running around herding what appeared to be black sooties, right out of Miyazaki.

    We quickly realized these were newly hatched quail — hardly more than tiny balls of dust.

    Needless to say, we treasure that encounter!

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