Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 7, 2011

Gambel’s Quail – backyard birds

Filed under: backyard, behavior, Birds — richditch @ 11:27 am
Gambel's Quail in tree

Gambel's Quail in tree

Gambel’s Quail is a common and widespread species in the desert southwest, and it can be seen in a variety of habitats from pristine desert to lush parks. The species also thrives in the subdivisions where we see them scurry from one yard to another.

Numbers in our yard vary seasonally, with a core group of 6-8 always present and as many as 20 at other times. We’ve been fortunate the past 3-4 years to have some pairs breed successfully in the yard, although numbers of chicks decline quickly as grackles and other hazards take their toll.

They are a fun bird to watch as they rush around the yard chasing each other for no apparent reason, form conga lines on the boundary wall, or march along a thick horizontal branch of the large mesquite tree. When its late afternoon and time to put out seed the quail can be heard cackling in anticipation under the bush they use as their base of operation, and they are quick to join the assorted doves at the scattered seed I put out for them.

But none of this makes it easy to photograph them – they remain spooky for the most part and are quick to seek shelter. The exception to this comes when the males are more interested in attracting a mate and find a perch.

These two images were both taken with a Nikon D70 and Nikkor 70-300 VR lens at 300mm, ISO 400, 1/160th second at f/5.6. The top image was made on 3/30/2011 in late afternoon; the bottom image on 3/30/2011 in mid morning. Both shots are taken just off the patio from inside the house and through the dirty glass of the patio door.

Gambel's Quail on agave

Gambel's Quail on agave



  1. Awesome photos – what a neat bird to have in your yard!

    Comment by Nicole MacP — April 7, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  2. great photos. I saw these once at my son’s home near Reno NV

    Comment by nellie — April 7, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  3. These are lovely. The light on the first one is really nice, but I’m especially drawn to the second composition with that curved agave leaf. What a great perch!

    I have taken many a shot through our dirty patio door.

    Comment by Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) — April 8, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  4. I’d love to have these birds in my yard. I do get the California Quail periodically and one year they raised a brood under the shed in my back yard. I really enjoy the second photo with the bird looking down at its nicely curved perch. Loved your “conga line” description of them on the boundary wall.

    Comment by rondudley — April 9, 2011 @ 5:52 am

  5. One of my favorite birds to photograph. Colorful and entertaining to watch.

    Comment by Jim Hackley — May 10, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

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