California Quail

This lovely bird offers the painter a host of subtleties and challenges.

By: Jerry Poindexter
Photography by Maslowski Productions

The California quail’s prominent head plume is one of the bird’s more striking characteristics. The aptly named quail has been California’s state bird since 1931.

The California quail (Callipepla californica) measures between nine and 11 inches and has a rather slender body and a long tail. You can distinguish it from the Gambel's quail by darker overall colors and differences in the nape pattern and other plumage. The California quail is lovely, graceful, and one of the liveliest of all American game birds not strictly confined to the ground since they can take to the air for short distances. You can see them in pairs in the summer or sitting singly on elevated places such as stumps, rocks, fences, or rooftops—evidence that the bird is on guard and a flock is nearby. The birds eat seeds, berries, leaves, and insects. 

This article is from the Spring 2011 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.


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