Quail of the West

The western states of the USA are home to various quail that you can hunt. Valley (also known as ‘California Quail’) and Gambel’s quail are those most common in California and Arizona. Valley (California) are probably the most widely distributed species in the west, ranging from California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, with extended ranges into nearby states.

Gambel’s quail are closely related to Valley quail, sharing many physical and behavioral characteristics. Valley quail will have a scaled pattern that is prominent on their breast and neck, while Gambel’s quail have a cream underbelly with a large black circle on it’s belly. In areas where both these quail overlap, there are cases of hybridization. You might be able to determine if a quail is a hybrid Valley/Gambel’s if it has a cream under belly/black spot and scales. Those are the ones you take to the taxidermist!

Valley and Gambel’s quail appear to require similar habitat. Both require good cover from predators and tend to avoid dense trees. Valley quail appear to be drawn near water sources, while Gambel’s quail tend to be a bit hardier. A rule of thumb? Locate the food or water source! You will find Valley Quail in the foothills and ravines where they have easy access to water or food that produces some water intake. Gambel’s quail can be found near old river bottoms or by a good food source like cactus with abundant prickly pear! I find that adult Valley and Gambel’s quail will not pass up a good invertebrate for lunch! Ant mounds are like buffets for quail! Although many will claim that adults primarily eat seeds and vegetation, I have examined quite a few Gambel’s quail crops that are stuffed with ants and tiny grasshoppers.

The Author with a Gambel’s Quail in Arizona
The Author with a Valley (California) Quail in California

   Gambel’s and Valley Quail sexually mature by 1 year and begin to breed around April and as long as July, giving opportunities for multiple broods, although 1 brood is the most common. Eggs may incubate from 20 to 24 days. Chicks develop quickly and are able to leave the nest on their own within moments of hatching. They become quite independent and begin to forage on their own within a few weeks, however, not leaving mom and dad’s side for that duration of that time. Juveniles are fully independent within a few months. Adult Gambel’s quail average a lifespan of about a year and a half to two years, however, some have been recorded to live up 4 years.