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Posts Tagged ‘New world quail’

This is a hybrid between a spot-bellied bobwhite (Colinus leucopogon) and a California quail (Callipepla californica).

The spot-bellied bobwhite is a close relative of the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) that is found in the United States and Canada.  There are actually four species of bobwhite, and this one is endemic to Central America.

New World quail aren’t like the true quail of the Old World. They actually behave and look like partridges.  (The old name for the northern bobwhite was “the Virginia partridge.”)

New World quail are in their own family, the Odontophoridae.  The quail and partridges are Phasianids– an entirely different family.

The various species of New World quail are pretty common captivity, and in captive situations, they become even tamer than domestic fowl.

And in captive situations, these birds hybridize across species– and across genera.

 

 

 

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This should answer the question:

Source.

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This is a rooster:

Source.

The description to this video said the bobwhite actually came in the house.

That means that this was a captive-reared bird.

Bobwhites have been bred in captivity for so long that they’ve become tamer than any domestic fowl. They also come in several color and size varieties. Some of the larger sizes appear to be bred for table fare only. (The so-called “jumbo” varieties.)

I have never seen a wild one in West Virginia.

They once were common, but the land no longer can support what is essentially a species that is more at home in the farm fields than dense woodland.

Releasing tame bobwhites into the wild actually doesn’t help much.

All it does is ring the dinner bell for every predator within a ten mile radius.

If they don’t know how to hide from hawks, then all you’re going to have in the end are some rather well-fed raptors.

Bobwhites naturally pair off in the breeding season, but they also travel in groups called coveys. The coveys tend to use the same roosts every night.

Foxes and raccoons are not stupid animals. They catch onto this very quickly.

And it would be one thing if they roosted in trees, but they don’t.

They roost on the ground in a circle. Their tails all point to the center of the circle, and their heads point outward. If they are disturbed, the birds will scatter in all directions. That way, if a predator grabs one, the others will have gone in so many different directions that the predator won’t be able to track them down.

But all of this works nicely in agricultural land.

It doesn’t work in forests that are full of lower and mid-level predators.

When the habitat is gone, turning loose tame bobwhites is a futile exercise.

They simply won’t last.

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Source.

One of my favorite memories of a family trip to Arizona was seeing Gambel’s quail and white-winged doves. These birds are suburban wildlife, and coming from a place where the native quail species (the Northern bobwhite) is all but gone, the Gambel’s were my first experience with quail.

The birds lived and nested at the hotel where we were staying. I remember that one quail hen laid her eggs in flowerbed that was four feet off the ground.  One of the hotel staff motioned us over, and when we looked into the flower bed there was a quail hen and a bunch (maybe a dozen) tiny chicks. They were like turkey poults but much smaller.

***

I thought white-winged doves were some kind of mutant mourning doves until I consulted my field guide.

And I thought Stevie Nicks made that animal up!

Source.

In the top video, there are mourning doves mixed in with the white-winged doves. They aren’t that hard to tell apart when they are standing near each other.

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bobwhites

With game birds, habitat is key. Without proper habitat, you’ll not have game birds. You can stock them, but without proper cover, they will fall to predation. And without proper access to cultivated fields and open pasture, the birds won’t make it long.

My grandparents and great grandparents lived in a land very different from the dense woodlands that cover most of West Virginia today. The land was used for intensive agricultural enterprises. The land was at best marginal to large scale crop production, but because they relied so much on what they could grow, they had to work as much of the land as possible.

When Europeans first came to this part of West Virginia, they cut small clearings in the forest and then shot all the wolves, cougars, and bears. They relied on wild game and domestic hogs for meat. They later took up small scale grazing of sheep and cattle. When the timber companies came in the decades following the Civil War, the forests were almost entirely cleared

Then market hunters killed off most of the white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, and everyone came to rely on domesticated animals for meat. Hog-raising and cattle husbandry became skills that were passed on from generation to generation.

As a result of having so much open land where corn and other grains could be grown, the northern bobwhites were the most common game bird.

Now, bobwhites do need some cover. They have to have it to hide from predators, and because they roost on the ground, they need some dense bushes to cover them up.

However, they do tend to thrive where there are fields of grain and pasture land. These areas are even better for them if there are some areas at the edges of the cultivated land with some of those dense thickets.

The way pastures and agricultural land was maintained in those days was to leave some “waste” at the edge of the field. The really super-powerful mowing machines were unknown in those days, and most crops and hay were cut using scythes. It would be too much effort to cut the waste at the edge of the field, so these areas were left intact for the bobwhites.

Also, because the land was open, the hawks didn’t have many perches from which to launch their attacks.  Except for the harrier, most hawks can’t hover in the air and then drop down on their prey.

By the 1970’s, though, things changed. Scientific management of forests had finally begun to pay off in West Virginia.  Agriculture became much more profitable and efficient in other areas of the country, so people were less interested in farming the high ridges. It was cheaper to buy food at the grocery store. Also, the post-war industrial boom had provided new incentives for people leave the hills and give up on hill-farming forever. As a result of these changes, the land was becoming more and more forested.

The bobwhites lost their food source, and it also became easier for the hawks to hunt them. The hawks now had far more platforms from which to swoop down on the bobwhites.

After losing much of their food souce and having lost their ability to avoid predation, bobwhite numbers began to decrease.

Then in the late 70’s, harsh winters did them in. They simply could not put up with that much snow and such low temperatures.

By the time I was born, the bobwhite had disappeared from most of West Virginia. And it hasn’t returned since.

Quail Forever’s 2008 hunting forecast for West Virginia painted a bleak picture:

With approximately three-quarters of the state in forested land, marginal habitat and limited agricultural production, bobwhite opportunities in the Mountain State remain limited. The best quail habitat lies in the Greenbrier River Valley, the eastern panhandle and in isolated pockets along the Ohio River Valley. West Virginia hunters can again expect to see a harvest of less than 1,000 bobs.

I don’t live in any of those places. And when they say “Ohio Valley,”  they mean the lower part of the Ohio Valley in West Virginia, where the land is largely flat and still open. Indeed, there are lots of large farms for corn and tobacco down there. Where I live,  you aren’t going to see anything like that.

So I live in a bobwhite-free zone. However, we have plenty of other animals. We have a growing population of wild turkeys, a sizeable population of ruffed grouse, and very good woodcock numbers. These animals didn’t do so well when the land was open and full of cornfield and pastures. And partly because the forests have returned, we now have a growing black bear population. And I don’t have to mention that we have tons of deer.

It’s not unusual to hear old-timers wax romantic about those long days in the hayfields, where they spend hour after hour swinging a scythe through the tall grass. As the sweat would pour from their brows, they would hear the little feeding calls of the bobwhites as they scurried around the fields, catching little insects and nibbling on tiny grass seeds.

But those days are past. The ubiquitous nature of the bobwhite in those days was an unnatural occurence.  Like the farmers, the little game birds relied upon an unnaturally open landscape to make their living, and once people found they no longer had farm in order to eat, the land returned to the dense forests. And these forests were no homes for the bobwhites.

Because I grew up in a land of dense forests, I was more likely to see a black bear than a bobwhite. I think I can handle the trade.

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bobwhites

With game birds, habitat is key. Without proper habitat, you’ll not have game birds. You can stock them, but without proper cover, they will fall to predation. And without proper access to cultivated fields and open pasture, the birds won’t make it long.

My grandparents and great grandparents lived in a land very different from the dense woodlands that cover most of West Virginia today. The land was used for intensive agricultural enterprises. The land was at best marginal to large scale crop production, but because they relied so much on what they could grow, they had to work as much of the land as possible.

When Europeans first came to this part of West Virginia, they cut small clearings in the forest and then shot all the wolves, cougars, and bears. They relied on wild game and domestic hogs for meat. They later took up small scale grazing of sheep and cattle. When the timber companies came in the decades following the Civil War, the forests were almost entirely cleared

Then market hunters killed off most of the white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, and everyone came to rely on domesticated animals for meat. Hog-raising and cattle husbandry became skills that were passed on from generation to generation.

As a result of having so much open land where corn and other grains could be grown, the northern bobwhites were the most common game bird.

Now, bobwhites do need some cover. They have to have it to hide from predators, and because they roost on the ground, they need some dense bushes to cover them up.

However, they do tend to thrive where there are fields of grain and pasture land. These areas are even better for them if there are some areas at the edges of the cultivated land with some of those dense thickets.

The way pastures and agricultural land was maintained in those days was to leave some “waste” at the edge of the field. The really super-powerful mowing machines were unknown in those days, and most crops and hay were cut using scythes. It would be too much effort to cut the waste at the edge of the field, so these areas were left intact for the bobwhites.

Also, because the land was open, the hawks didn’t have many perches from which to launch their attacks.  Except for the harrier, most hawks can’t hover in the air and then drop down on their prey.

By the 1970’s, though, things changed. Scientific management of forests had finally begun to pay off in West Virginia.  Agriculture became much more profitable and efficient in other areas of the country, so people were less interested in farming the high ridges. It was cheaper to buy food at the grocery store. Also, the post-war industrial boom had provided new incentives for people leave the hills and give up on hill-farming forever. As a result of these changes, the land was becoming more and more forested.

The bobwhites lost their food source, and it also became easier for the hawks to hunt them. The hawks now had far more platforms from which to swoop down on the bobwhites.

After losing much of their food souce and having lost their ability to avoid predation, bobwhite numbers began to decrease.

Then in the late 70’s, harsh winters did them in. They simply could not put up with that much snow and such low temperatures.

By the time I was born, the bobwhite had disappeared from most of West Virginia. And it hasn’t returned since.

Quail Forever’s 2008 hunting forecast for West Virginia painted a bleak picture:

With approximately three-quarters of the state in forested land, marginal habitat and limited agricultural production, bobwhite opportunities in the Mountain State remain limited. The best quail habitat lies in the Greenbrier River Valley, the eastern panhandle and in isolated pockets along the Ohio River Valley. West Virginia hunters can again expect to see a harvest of less than 1,000 bobs.

I don’t live in any of those places. And when they say “Ohio Valley,”  they mean the lower part of the Ohio Valley in West Virginia, where the land is largely flat and still open. Indeed, there are lots of large farms for corn and tobacco down there. Where I live,  you aren’t going to see anything like that.

So I live in a bobwhite-free zone. However, we have plenty of other animals. We have a growing population of wild turkeys, a sizeable population of ruffed grouse, and very good woodcock numbers. These animals didn’t do so well when the land was open and full of cornfield and pastures. And partly because the forests have returned, we now have a growing black bear population. And I don’t have to mention that we have tons of deer.

It’s not unusual to hear old-timers wax romantic about those long days in the hayfields, where they spend hour after hour swinging a scythe through the tall grass. As the sweat would pour from their brows, they would hear the little feeding calls of the bobwhites as they scurried around the fields, catching little insects and nibbling on tiny grass seeds.

But those days are past. The ubiquitous nature of the bobwhite in those days was an unnatural occurence.  Like the farmers, the little game birds relied upon an unnaturally open landscape to make their living, and once people found they no longer had farm in order to eat, the land returned to the dense forests. And these forests were no homes for the bobwhites.

Because I grew up in a land of dense forests, I was more likely to see a black bear than a bobwhite. I think I can handle the trade.

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strange-quail

In North America, we have birds that are called quail.

They are actually more like small partridges than the Coturnix quail.

The Coturnix quail are in the family Phasianidae, along with partridges, pheasants, chickens (junglefowl), tragopans, and francolins.

New World quail, though, are in entirely different family, the Odontophoridae. These are the so-called “toothed” quail, for these quail have a slightly serrated bills. They aren’t that closely related to the Coturnix species, however, and they have very different habits.

This is a female common quail.

This is a female common quail.

The Coturnix species endemic to Europe is called the common quail. It is a migratory bird, unlike virtually all other birds of this type. It flies from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe each each year. It is commonly propagated in captivity for its eggs, which are often sold hard-boiled and pickled.

The New World quail are not migratory at all. In fact, the Northern bobwhite is uncommon in the northern part of its range because it cannot handle harsh winters. These birds are about the same size as the common quail, but they live a very different life. They roost on the ground and form really strong pair bonds. The North American species have been extensively propagated in captivity, and the Northern bobwhite now exists in several different strains, including white and red varieties. These birds become extremely tame in captivity, which is very often a problem when they are stocked on shooting preserves. They are just too tame to run from people or dogs.

The only reason I can reason for calling the New World species quail is that the species first known to Europeans was the Northern bobwhite, which looks something like a common quail, if you have the imagination.

A Northern bobwhite.

A Northern bobwhite.

However, if Europeans had come from the Pacific Coast first, they would have encountered the other species of New World quail. These are the scaled, the Gambel’s, and the California or Valley quail. The males of the last two have elaborate head plumage. For some reason, this has been captured in the public imagination in the US as the archetypal quail head plumage.

Scaled quail

Scaled quail

Gambel's quail.

Gambel's quail.

California or Valley Quail, the birds that say "Chicago."

California or Valley Quail, the birds that say "Chicago."

The bobwhite species are all members of the genus Colinus. The Northern Bobwhite once ranged from Cape Cod to Southern Ontario west to Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. This range extended south to Mexico and many Caribbean islands. Today, this bird is uncommon in the northern parts of its range. My grandparents saw them regularly eating excess grain on their farms in West Virginia, but I’ve never seen a wild one there.  The bobwhite gets its name for its call, which goes “bob, bob-white.”

Most of the other species of New World quail in North America are in the genus Callipepla. The Gambel’s and the California quail are the most closely related. The Gambel’s is found in the deserts of the Southwest, from southern Arizona and New Mexico to parts of Utah, Nevada, and easternmost Califonia. Their range then extends into northern Mexico. The California or Valley quail is from from Baja California to British Columbia. It is best known for its call, which sounds like someone saying “Chicago, Chicago.” The scaled or blue quail’s range goes from central Mexico through to West Texas, westernmost Oklahoma, eastern Arizona, most of New Mexico, and southernmost Colorado.

There is also another genus of quail, the Mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus). These birds are a relict population of primitive New World Quail that live almost exclusively in the far westernmost mountains of California and Oregon, as well as some small populations in Washington. It is particularly associated with the chaparral habitat.

Mountain quail

Mountain quail

Now what is really interesting is that where the ranges of these species overlap, there are occasional hybrids. This photo is of a hybrid between two members of the Callipepla genus: the Gambel’s and the scaled. Hybrids also occur with the very closely related Gambel’s and California species where their ranges overlap.

However, intergeneric hybrids do occur in these quail. Remember, the bobwhites are in a different genus than the other quail in North America.

And this brings us to our mystery quail. Yes, the bird at the top of this post.

This bird is one of these intergeneric hybrids. It is a hybrid between a Gambel’s and Northern bobwhite.

Now, intergeneric hybrids are actually quite uncommon. Hybrids betwen species within the same genus are somewhat more commoplace. This “Gambelwhite” is truly a strange bird.

It is because of this tendency to hybridize that most breeders of these quail keep them in groups that contain their own species. Hybridization is just too much of a risk, and there are not many buyers for these birds, although they are certainly a novelty.

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