You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a detailed view.
I recently encountered a male Gambel’s Quail while I was out on an early morning drive in the farmlands. Throughout most of the year quail are timid creatures that like to hide in low brush. One rarely sees them perched much above ground.
That changes during the quail breeding season. Then, the males feel compelled to seek out relatively high perches on which they display their finery and from which they call for potential mates. It’s a bit of quail derring-do, because quail are favorite snacks for predators ranging from Cooper’s Hawks and Great Horned Owls to Coyotes and Bobcats. This male had thrown caution to the winds and was going all out to win some female’s love.
He really put his heart into calling, emitting a piercing cry several times a minute. I captured him calling in this second image. Notice that he’s partly closed his eye. I’m not sure why he did that, but I made numerous images of him while he called and he did it every single time. Perhaps it’s a sign of the effort he put into his calling.
It’s my perception that Gambel’s Quail in our area have diminished in number considerably over the past couple of years. I frequently see adult quail foraging with their broods, sometimes including a dozen or more young birds, during the spring and fore summer quail breeding season. Last year, however, I saw hardly any of that and I’ve thought that perhaps, many quail failed to reproduce.
Southern Arizona has been in the grip of extreme drought, which was particularly acute in 2020 and into the spring of 2021. Many plants died at that time or failed to drop seeds and I suspect that the quail lost a lot of food, inhibiting breeding. We did have an unusually wet summer in 2021 and I’m hoping that there is a better food supply for the quail this year than last spring.
Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1600, f6.3 @ 1/3200, +1 1/3 stops exposure compensation.