Quail, Callipepla californica
The diet of the California Quail is
mostly made up of seeds and leaves of broad-leaved annuals, (grasses
are usually a minor component of diet) with a variety of other plants
thrown in, depending on the plants available, the vicinity, the soil
type, the yearly rainfall; they are very flexible, and adaptable in
their eating habits. When the acorn crop is good, they eat lots of
acorns (the acorns that have the shells crushed by cars they can
access more easily); when the spring rains are good, they love a
variety of seeds of spring annual plants, with special emphasis on
legumes. Depending on rainfall and temperature, different foods are
dominant in the quail diet year to year, so you want to make sure you
have lots of different kinds of plants, so the quail will not go
December through March mostly seeds
are eaten; then as the temperatures warm, the days become longer, the
wildflower seeds sprout and grow, greens become available, and the
California quail switch to eating mostly leaves from May through
Some examples of plants they eat
Eremocarpus, Amsinckia, Calandrinia,
Toxicodendron diversilobum, Fragaria,
Here at the nursery in the central
coast ranges, quail have been foraging under the large Ceanothus
planting (with shrubs and subshrubs of Arctostaphylos
scoparius, Salvia species, and Penstemon
centranthifolius), for a
couple of months now.
Quail are also pretty adaptable in
regards to habitat, though they do have certain preferences.
They cannot forage through large thick
stands of tall grass, though small patches, clumps of grass are
for nesting, if nothing else is available. Thick brush
piles/woodpiles also work for nesting and cover, in a pinch.
They need areas of thick shrubs for
cover (to hide and rest in) and Emlen and Glading suggest areas 20
ft. X 30 ft. in diameter, which may have to be adjusted for your area
up or down, depending on rainfall, climate, etc. Some examples of
plants to use in this area would be Atriplex
aureum var. gracillimum, Ribes
species, bush Eriogonum
species, shrub Salvia
species, Toxicodendron diversilobum, Rhamnus
Adjacent to these blocks of cover
plants, are open areas with low broad-leaved annuals growing such as Lupinus
nanus, Amsinckia species, Eremocarpus setigerus, Montia
species, Hemizonia, Lotus
species. Quail do eat some grasses but minor amounts, and
genera such as Hordeum
Annual grasses will usually take over
these areas if not carefully managed and shade out the broad-leaved
annuals, so you want to keep the grass numbers lower to allow
broad-leaved annuals to flower and set seed or the quail will be
starved out. They also
can be seen picking at vegetation, arthropods, and fruits which are
near or on the ground. They will hop up to pluck food from shrubs.
Quail also eat arthropods especially young quail, probably needing
the high protein and fat for growth.
For example, if you have a field, on
the edges of the field, you can plant to these cover shrubs, to make
a runway for them to move from area to area, and then in a couple of
corners, plant the larger, block of cover shrubs for their refuge.
In town, quail are not seen as
for there is usually not as much or nothing for them to eat, and cats
do lots of damage, as quail nest on the ground.
The third requirement for their
is some trees/taller shrubs for roosting, They roost at night and
sleep in the trees, so a few trees would work well. If you plant
oaks, you will have food and roosting sites at the same time.
and house Cats are devastating to quail populations. Young birds are
able to fly 10 days after hatching. They live for about 6-7 Years.
of the California quail
California Quail is not found in the desert or high elevations of
the Sierras, but is found from Baja to British Columbia, Northern
Nevada and Utah.
to attract the California quail to your garden
California Quail feeds on the ground near the cover of brush.
They like areas of bare dirt for dust baths. They flap around in
the dust to remove parasites. They like open areas to feed where
they can see predators.
do not like grass as it obscures their view. A male usually
perches on a nearby shrub as the rest of the covey feeds. He
signals danger to the others. They like to eat Lupine seeds. Cats
are very destructive to Quail. As Quail nest on the ground, they
are especially vulnerable to cats.
have our own little chickens. Blue jays, hawks, cats and many other
animals like to eat them. But one day I watched a chipmunk, Towhee and
rabbit interface with a mom and dad quail and their walnuts. The Chipmunk
kept trying to play with them. Something smaller than him? Rabbit and
towhee seemed to be using the quail parents as protectors. A quail alarm system for the wildlife of the yard.