Ground-dwelling birds (Odontophoridae
and Phasianidae Families)
Namesake of Quail Ridge, California Quail (Callipepla
californica) predominantly inhabit the coastal and interior
regions of California. Their abundance on the Reserve is likely
due in part to their tolerance for dehydration during periods of
high temperatures and drought. However, quail do require standing
water for survival during these times. Quail Ridge also hosts Mountain
Quail (Oreortyx pictus), providing the chaparral and brush
cover vital for protection and breeding. Both species are short,
plump, mostly ground-dwelling birds, distinguished by black, head-borne
plumes, comma-shaped on the California Quail and upwardly erect
on the Mountain Quail.
While Mountain Quail have been detected at Quail
Ridge in the winter and spring, the full extent of their occupancy
is unknown. Their range in California is restricted to mid- to high-elevation
mountains throughout the state with some altitudinal migration down-slope
in winter. In coastal chaparral mountains and the foothills of the
Sierra, Mountain and California quail are sympatric. Since Quail
Ridge may be too isolated for Mountain Quail to use as a periodic
migration destination (they are short-distance fliers), this species
is likely resident. Further study is needed to examine their geographic
movements and foraging at Quail Ridge.
quail are able to digest vegetation as a consequence of intestinal
symbionts obtained when pecking at adult feces as chicks. The California
Quail feed mainly on legume leaves, other vegetation, and insects
in the winter and then expand their diet to include berries and
flowers in the summer. The Mountain Quail, on the other hand, primarily
eat winter fruits and berries while in the same range.
Highly gregarious, quail form groups, or coveys, of two to 200 birds
that forage collectively and move within a range during the non-breeding
season. The males participate in a dominance hierarchy that may
function in mate selection, brood movement, and inter-covey social
relationships. The birds maintain contact using various calls. At
the onset of the breeding season, the members of a covey break up
into pairs to independently raise their young. Females typically
make a depression in the ground and line it with grass or stems;
alternatively they will nest in lower tree regions or brush piles.
Egg laying occurs from late April to early June. A female may lay
one to 28 eggs and incubate them while the male stands as sentinel.
The eggs are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators, including
Western Scrub Jays, gopher snakes, northern raccoons, American Crows,
coyotes, and gray foxes. Once the precocial chicks have hatched
and gained the ability to roost in trees, the pair and chicks will
rejoin the covey.
The third ground-dwelling species – and Quail
Ridge’s largest avian inhabitant – is the Wild Turkey
(Meleagris gallopavo). Wild Turkeys were introduced into
California and have spread as a result of limited competition
and predation. Forming flocks upwards of 40 to 50 individuals, turkeys
spend most of their time walking the landscape in search of forage.
They feed on berries, acorns and other nuts, seeds, and some insects
in deciduous forest clearings and grasslands. In spring, turkeys
form harems before females separate to nest. They lay 8 to 14 eggs
in a nest hollow in the ground that is often concealed by grass
or shrubs. Once hatched, turkey young follow their parents for approximately
two weeks before achieving flight. Despite their largely earthbound
lifestyle, adult turkeys fly well enough to evade potential predators
and to roost together in low trees.
Species and Guild Accounts
Listen and identify birds at: http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx
Photo Credits: Title, California Quail
(Joyce Gross), California Quail (H. Vannoy Davis), Mountain Quail
(Glenn and Martha Vargas), Wild Turkey (Gerald and Buff Corsi).
For more pictures see: http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/fauna/