The Gambel Quail
Callipepla gambelii, is a small ground-dwelling bird in the New World
quail family. It inhabits the desert regions of Arizona, California,
Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Sonora. The Gambel's
quail is named in honor of William Gambel, a 19th century naturalist
and explorer of the Southwestern United States.
These birds are easily recognized by their top knots and scaly plumage
on their undersides. Gambel's quail have gray plumage on much of their
bodies, and males have copper feathers on the top of their heads, black
faces, and white stripes above their eyes. Gambel's quail can be
commonly confused with California Quail due to similar plumage. They
can usually be distinguished by range, but when this
does not suffice, California quail have a more scaly appearance and the
black patch on the lower breast of the male Gambel's Quail is absent in
the California Quail. The two species are sister taxa which diverged
during the Late Pliocene or Early Pleistocene, 1 to 2 mya (Zink
The bird's average length is 11 inches (30 cm) with a wingspan of 14-16
cm). Its diet consists primarily of plant matter and seeds. Gambel's
quail primarily move about by walking, and can move surprisingly fast
through brush and undergrowth. They are a non-migratory species and are
rarely seen in flight. Any flight is usually short and explosive, with
many rapid wingbeats followed by a slow glide to the ground. These
birds have relatively short, rounded wings and long, featherless legs.
In the late summer, fall and winter, the adults and immature young
congregate into coveys of many birds. In the spring, Gambel's quail
pair off for mating and become very aggressive toward other pairs.The
chicks are decidedly more insectivorous than adults, gradually
plant matter as they mature. Gambel's quail are monogamous, and rarely
breed in colonies. The female typically lays 10-15 eggs in a simple
scrape concealed in vegetation, often at the base of a rock or tree.
Incubation lasts from 21-24 days, usually performed by the female and
rarely by the male. The chicks are precocial, leaving the nest with
their parents within hours of hatching.
Gambel's quail are quite easily Arizona's most popular gamebird.
Gambel's quail eats leaves, seeds, fruits and small insects in the
wild. Gambel's quail breed only in spring and early summer, and
breeding intensity and success are directly related to the amount of
rainfall received during the previous October through March. In the
spring, Gambel's quail pair off for mating and become very aggressive
toward other pairs.
Gambel's quail are the evolutionary answer to the question: "Can quail
survive in the desert.
My Thoughts on Raising Gambel Quail.
Quail are better
raised on the ground with good management practice provided by the
quail farmer. They are very nervous, very active and can become very
aggressive during the mating season. During the breeding season these
birds seem to do better being paired 1 male to 1 female.
Due to their active nature the pens should be more long than wide. Give
them enough room to run.