Monday, February 27, 2017
Animals in their habitat: Gamble's Quail
Gamble's Quail Family. This species lives in the creosote and Saguaro areas of the Sonoran Desert. We have Mearn's Quail in the south eastern canyons and Scaled Quail in the grasslands further east. February is a little early for chicks, but at last weekend's art show, prints and note cards of this image sold out very quickly. So humans are eagerly waiting for spring, The male quail are also getting all territorial and sit on their perches calling 'ChiCAgo!' for hours. During most of the year, quail live very socially in coveys - probably related groups of siblings from those large clutches. Quail mothers lay 10 to 18 eggs in a protected hollow under dense vegetation or in a suitable flower pot. Not much nesting material is used. The hen does not incubate before she is completely done, and at one egg per day, this takes a while. Dangers lurk: snakes, Gila monsters, Roadrunners, Ravens, Coyotes, all love to gobble up a whole clutch. But if it works out, all chicks hatch at the same time. They are extremely precocious, fully feathered and able to follow their parents after only a couple of hours. The group does not return to the nest. Both parents are vigilant guardians, and the kids stay together instinctively. The chicks not only grow amazingly fast, they can also fly long before they are fully grown. The breeding season is long: groups of chicks can be seen from late March to late August.
Like many desert-dwelling species, Gambel’s Quail populations undergo a “boom-and-bust” cycle. A year with ample winter-spring rainfall that generates lots of green vegetation will yield larger clutches and an abundance of chicks. Dry winters mean less food and lower productivity. So this year, we are expecting huge rows of chicks to follow their parents around!