Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Scaled Quail

Callipepla squamata

Dry southwestern grasslands provide a home for this blue-gray quail. Coveys of Scaled Quail travel about on foot; even when disturbed, they tend to run rather than flying. In the concealing cover of the short grass they can be inconspicuous except in spring, when males often call from atop fenceposts or exposed rocks. At night, coveys of Scaled Quail roost on the ground in dense low growth.
Conservation status Local populations rise and fall. Reproduction may be poor in dry years. Moderate grazing may improve habitat for this species, but overgrazing degrades habitat.
Family New World Quail
Habitat Grasslands, brush, arid country. Prime habitat is flat open country or rolling hills, supporting a mix of grasses with annual weeds, with scattered shrubs for additional cover and shade. Also found where grassland grades into other open habitat types such as desert, juniper slopes, dry brush.
Dry southwestern grasslands provide a home for this blue-gray quail. Coveys of Scaled Quail travel about on foot; even when disturbed, they tend to run rather than flying. In the concealing cover of the short grass they can be inconspicuous except in spring, when males often call from atop fenceposts or exposed rocks. At night, coveys of Scaled Quail roost on the ground in dense low growth.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile, molting to adult plumage
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages in coveys at most seasons, in pairs or singly during early part of breeding season.


Eggs

Usually about 12, sometimes 5-16 or more. Whitish, speckled with light brown. Incubation is mostly by female, rarely by male, about 22-23 days. Young: Leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, with male often standing guard on higher perch while female and young feed on the ground. Young feed themselves. Development of young and age at first flight not well known. One brood per year, rarely two.


Young

Leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, with male often standing guard on higher perch while female and young feed on the ground. Young feed themselves. Development of young and age at first flight not well known. One brood per year, rarely two.

Diet

Seeds, insects. Eats seeds of many annual and perennial weeds (such as snakeweed, Russian thistle, broomweed), seeds of woody plants (such as mesquite); seems to eat relatively few grass seeds, but perhaps more than some quail. Also feeds on green leaves, berries. Eats more insects than most quail, especially in spring and summer.


Nesting

In breeding season, unmated males perch on tops of shrubs, rocks, or posts, and give hoarse single-noted call to defend territory and attract females. Nest site is on ground, usually well hidden under shrub, tumbleweed, cactus, or other cover. Nest (probably built by female) is shallow depression lined with grass and leaves, with tuft of standing grass arched over it.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident throughout its range.

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Migration

Permanent resident throughout its range.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Call is a low nasal pe-cos. Also harsh clucking calls.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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