The California quail: what is its true range?

This beautiful species is endemic to a very specific area

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The California quail: what is its true range?
© David McNew / Staff Getty Images News

The California quail is a bird native to the western United States. The range of the California quail originally extended from Baja California to the southern counties of Oregon and a small area of western Nevada. Today it lives in the states of the Pacific coast and has been successfully introduced in the US states of northern Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, in the Canadian province of British Columbia and then also in New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.

California quail are birds that prefer to walk and/or run rather than fly, and the only times they fly regularly are to reach tree branches to sleep at night, to reach high places to act as a lookout, and to overcome physical obstacles such as canyons, rivers, or walls.

California quail prefer to live in open woods, brushy hills and valleys with streams. This species does not even disdain cultivated areas and rural areas.

California Quail© David McNew / Staff Getty Images News

The California quail: what is its true range?

They are very sedentary birds, and the maximum verified distance from their place of birth is only 27 km.

They are birds that often venture into urbanized areas, although they do not let humans approach them. Like many other galliformes, Californian quail also keep their plumage shiny and functional by taking so-called sand baths, one of their most frequent social activities.

California quail, excluding the period from the formation of pairs to the hatching of the eggs, are gregarious birds that move in groups that can number up to several dozen individuals. In these groups the birds remain in continuous sound contact, emitting specific calls.

When the group forages, one of the males usually reaches a high point such as a tree or a pole to act as a lookout, to warn the group in case of danger, such as the approach of a predator. In case of sudden danger, these birds take flight explosively and often in all directions, to confuse the predator, landing after a maximum of a few hundred meters in a sheltered place, such as for example among the branches of a bush or a tree.