First, my apologies for the image quality here. The shot was taken through the window glass, dirty at that, in dim light.
One of the compensations for putting up with the heat of Phoenix is the abundance of Gambel’s Quail that frequent the packed subdivisions. Unlike the mostly secretive Northern Bobwhite that we were lucky to have in our rural yard in New Jersey, the Gambel’s Quail can be seen out running around in yards and crossing the streets in front of houses. That doesn’t make them all that easy to photograph, though, as they will cackle and run for cover if you try to get near.
Our backyard is used by a few pairs of quail throughout the year, and we look forward to any family groups. The babies are precocious – able to run and feed as soon as they leave the egg. They first show up about the size of golf balls in a tight pack near the adult female, usually accompanied by the male who stands guard.
Feeding is a lot of fun to watch. The adults take the chicks around to various bushes to show them what to eat. They also scratch up whatever seed they can find on the ground (among the gravel in most AZ yards like ours). As the adult kicks with vigor the chicks get right down in the action, often ejected by the rapidly moving feet of the adult.
In this photo the female is sheltering eight chicks under her wings and tail before they started to feed in the morning, and one chick can be seen if you look closely at the gap between wing and body. Luckily the camera was already set up on the tripod, but even so I only got off a couple of frames before they dispersed.