Gambel’s Quail

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Gambel’s Quail are a common sight in our part of southern Arizona’s desert.  At certain times of the year these chicken-like birds seem to be everywhere.  I often encounter them foraging in the brush near our home.  In late spring these quail produce broods of large numbers of chicks, sometimes as many as a dozen or so.

We tend to take Gambel’s Quail for granted, which is a shame, because they (at least the males) are among the most beautiful of the birds that live in our area.  Their plumage is absolutely gorgeous, a rich blend of gray, black, burgundy and cream.  

Gambel’s Quail are on virtually every predator’s menu. They survive by making themselves as inconspicuous as possible. My encounters with these birds often consist of hearing them but not seeing them.  There will be a rustling in the undergrowth, some low and soft peeping noises, and I’ll perhaps catch a glimpse of feathers as the birds scurry about their business.  However, during courtship and breeding season that drive to remain hidden changes for the males of this species.  During the courtship season in March and April male Gambel’s Quail often sit on exposed perches, calling to advertise their territory and to attract potential mates. That’s particularly the case early in the morning, in the hour just after sunrise.  I’ve been able to capture several images of these birds during the course of the past few weeks as I take early morning walks.

The drive to find a mate must be very strong for these birds because they tend to throw caution to the winds during courtship season.  The males are quite approachable when they perch and call, as this male is doing.  I was able to walk within about 10 yards (meters) of him as I photographed him.

Once these birds find mates and the chicks hatch the males will assume a second duty that keeps them exposed.  A male Gambel’s Quail will often perch, exposed, while his mate and their offspring forage on the ground below.  In that circumstance the male is standing guard, keeping watch for potential predators like a hungry coyote, a roadrunner, or perhaps, a Cooper’s Hawk.  He’ll be ready to sound a warning as trouble approaches.


I’ll post a few more images of Gambel’s Quail in the near future.  I find these birds to be irresistible photographic subjects.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 400, f5.6 @ 1/2000.

2 Replies to “Gambel’s Quail”

  1. […] via Gambel’s Quail — Sonoran Images […]

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