Scaled Quail

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In the past I’ve posted images of Gambel’s Quail.  These attractive birds certainly are the dominant quail species in southeastern Arizona.  They are highly adaptive, showing up in the desert, in brush, and throughout metropolitan Tucson.  Louisa and I used to maintain a bird feeder in our back yard and the Gambel’s Quail often would show up in coveys of 10-15 birds to gobble up the millet seeds that songbirds dropped as they fed.

But, Gambel’s Quail are not the only quail species in southeastern Arizona.  Another, albeit much less common, species is the Scaled Quail, an inhabitant of grasslands and somewhat higher elevations than are found in the immediate vicinity of Tucson.  This species may be seen in southeastern Arizona, much of New Mexico, West and Southwest Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and a large part of northeastern Mexico.  One need drive only a half-hour or so east of town to encounter these birds.   Scaled Quail are slightly smaller than their Gambel’s cousins and, perhaps, a bit shyer.  I’ve seen them from time to time but never had the opportunity to photograph one.  Until recently, when I was driving in grasslands with a friend.  We passed a covey of these birds and I was able to get an image of one of them by shooting through the open passenger side window of his truck.


Scaled Quail may easily be identified by their white top knots and by the feathers on their necks, shoulders, breasts, and abdomens, that resemble scales (hence the name).  One of these birds is about the size of a Cornish Game Hen and yes, they are hunted.

I’m not 100 percent certain but I believe that this individual is a young male.  Male Gambel’s Quail are instantly distinguishable from the females.  Not so with Scaled Quail: with this species the sexes more closely resemble each other.

Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x Telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1250.

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