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a small bird perched on top of a wooden post

One of the most frequently-seen animals on our Sonoran Desert Jeep Tours, and my personal favorite, are Gambel’s Quail. 

When you are on one of our tours, you will be able to easily recognize the Gambel’s Quail by their “top knots” (a small, black, comma-shaped feather that dangles in front of their faces), and bluish-gray body plumage. Males are a bit more colorful than the females and have copper-colored feathers on their heads, white stripes above their eyes, and a black face.

As we drive through the desert, we often see family groups of Gambel’s Quail scurrying along our trails. These desert birds are able to fly in short, explosive bursts, although they prefer to remain grounded where they forage for a high-protein diet that includes plants, insects, and seeds. Interestingly, young Gambel’s Quail are much more likely to eat small insects to meet their nutritional requirements, while the adults tend to live almost entirely off plants and seeds.

The habitat of these good-natured and hard-working birds extends to most desert regions of the southwest U.S. — including the northeast section

of the beautiful Sonoran Desert — and they are non-migratory. This means that no matter what time of year you come on a tour with us, you are almost certain to see them.

The highly-social Gambel’s Quail form flocks in late summer to early spring and these groups are easily spotted as they rapidly patrol the desert floor for food, or as they are heading in to roost in trees, bushes, and cactus at night for protection.

The quail pair off each spring for mating season and remain monogamous. The female lays 10 to 12 eggs in scrapes typically concealed in vegetation or rocks. The eggs are highly vulnerable to predators during the 3-week incubation period, but the chicks can fly at 10 days old. The mated pair will raise one or two broods in a year and will lay more eggs when there has been ample rainfall to better support the growing chicks.  Sadly, the typical lifespan of the quail is only 1.5 to 2 years.

Bring your family and join us for an informative Jeep Tour in the beautiful Sonoran Desert, and I’ll guarantee that these interesting, family-focused birds will be just one of the charming and amazing sights you see.

Author:  Pat Clements

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