California Quail – Happy Under Cover

When you hear a plaintive, high-pitched call, it’s probably an anxious lone quail searching for its flock.


Callipepla californica, the California Quail, is a social animal who lives in coveys ranging from 10 to 200 birds (depending on the time of year).

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As long as they have enough cover, food, and space this animal can live successfully among humans.  Each bird requires at least one acre of land to support it – this land needs to be continuous since they prefer running to flying.

When startled, quail will make a fast, short flight known as ‘flushing.’

Often quail can often be observed scratching the ground like chickens in their quest for food. While the flock is feeding, the male leader perches in a high spot, keeping watch.

The male makes different calls, informing covey about what is going on.

An adaptation that quail have for living in dry environments is that they can get adequate moisture from insects and succulents. In sustained periods of drought, however, they do need a water source.

Quail remain in their habitats year-round, staying within 10 miles of where they were hatched.

To keep themselves looking good, quail take dust baths. This abolition usually takes place in a sunny location with loose soil. Squatting in the dirt, they burrow in, one to two inches deep. Ruffling, flapping wings, and wiggling, they send a plume of particles into the air. The dust bath helps maintain oil on their feathers.


Coveys feed early in the morning. Their diet includes;

  • insects
  • caterpillars
  • plant parts
  • seeds
  • leaves
  • some berries (including poison oak berries)
  • acorns (if they’ve been cracked)

Quail have protozoans in their intestines that help digest plant materials. (Chicks get the protozoans by pecking adult feces).

Pit-pit call alerting the covey of possible danger.

Mating & Reproduction

California quail form breeding pairs. Ratios are such that there are more males than females, so males must compete for partners. The male’s topknot, consisting of six overlapping feathers, and his, ‘I’m available call,’ help differentiate from others.

When it is time to nest, the female lays between 12 to 16 brown speckled eggs – perfectly camouflaged for their environment.

Especially large broods (as many as 28 chicks!) occur when a female does egg-dumping, laying her eggs in an already occupied nest.

Females sit on eggs for about three weeks. Both males and females take turns caring for the chicks once they are hatched.

It takes approximately six weeks for chicks to reach maturity.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About the California Quail  – Life History, Calls and their Meanings & Identification- Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Bird Calls from Around the World – Callipepla californica

Audubon – California Quail

Nature Works – California Quail

California State Bird

eBird – Record your bird observations online

Internet Bird Collection – California Quail   Callipepla californica

SF Gate – Planting to support California quail in yards

UC Santa Barbara  Science Line – Why to males have a little thing on top of their head? 

Wikipedia – California Quail

General Quail Call (Bobwhite – Texas) Information.
Championship bird caller & hunter, Dr. Dale Rollins discusses quail calls and their meanings.

Turkey Vulture – Carrion Cleaner

Not considered a beautiful bird, the common Turkey Vulture is a scavenger. It is also is an important part of the Deer Creek ecosystem. They do the dirty work of picking clean the dead.

Turkey Vulture & Turkey

The Turkey Vulture’s Latin name, Cathartes aura, means ‘breeze purifier.’ Its common name, ‘turkey’ is for the bird’s resemblance to the wild turkey. Vulture means ‘tearer.’ In flight, a group of vultures is a ‘kettle,’ and when feeding together, they are called a ‘wake.’

Turkey vultures inhabit both American continents. In the warmer climates, they remain throughout the year.  In colder areas, they are migratory.

Photo credit: Docent Joyce – vulture ‘committee,” volt,’ or ‘venue’


Vulture food consists of freshly dead animals of about their own size or smaller. A unique adaptation is an acute sense of smell that can locate carcasses up to eight miles away.


Social animals related to hawks and eagles, they eat, soar, mate, and roost in groups, heading off alone when searching for a meal.

With large wingspans and bodies, they wait for warm thermals before taking to the air. This economizes wing flapping.


Full grown Turkey Vultures have few predators. In junior states of life they can fall prey to raccoons, opossums, red-tailed hawks, eagles, and great horned owls.


Breeding season in our climate can last from March through August. Both males and females care for young, regurgitating food for the chicks for about two-and-a-half months.


Other Turkey Vulture Adaptations

horaltic pose
  • lowering body temperature at night – becoming slightly hypothermic
  • horaltic pose for warming, appearing larger to threats, and UV sterilization of feathers
  • no voicebox (syrinx) – communicates with hissing and grunts
  • noxious smelling barf – repels threats
  • urohydrosis – noxious smelling pee – repels threats, cools legs, kills bacteria from walking on dead animals
  • bald heads – cleanliness after burying face in a carcass
  • boney shield covering nose
  • ability to clear nostril when it becomes clogged

Cellphone video & stills of Turkey Vultures off Newtown Rd. May & June 2018.

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For a short, humorous, Turkey Vulture text love story, click here.


Internet Bird Collection – Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura

Peregrine Fund – Turkey Vulture

Wikipedia – Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura

Wildlife Center – vulture facts

live ebird recorded Turkey Vulture sightings along Deer Creek



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