Michael Ellis

Every morning lately I have been waking to the repeated single note call of a male quail. This is good because I live near downtown Santa Rosa and it is not exactly prime quail habitat around here. For the past two years a pair of these delightful birds has successfully raised some offspring near me. In my local world of house cats, fragmented habitat and speeding automobiles this is a real accomplishment. That guy makes my heart sing with every one of his notes.

I reckon my first encounter with quail was via the movie – Bambi. Walt Disney’s cartoonists of southern California must have been inspired by these birds as they looked out the window onto then-rural Burbank. They drew cute little fuzz ball chicks running behind mom and dad with the chunky adult birds displaying the prominent top knots.

They illustrated the birds pretty well but they missed sure on Bambi. According to the way his antlers branch Bambi and his dad are actually white tailed deer. This is a species not found in the southern California. Our local species is the Black tailed Deer, but that is a story for another day.

Male quail during early courtship can be seen perched in prominent places like fence posts or bushes singing something that sounds a lot like “Chicago, Chicago, Chicago.” I remember hearing that call once in the background of the TV show, MASH. I guess it must have been a Korean Quail.

At the recommendation of the Audubon society, in 1931 the California state legislature voted the California or Valley quail as the state bird. It seems odd to me that our State bird is also a game species. You can get fined for picking a poppy, our state flower, but you’re encouraged to shoot quail. Every year thousands of them are blasted out of the sky by hunters. It doesn’t seem to affect the population though; California quail are numerous everywhere throughout their range.

And, according to the fellow serenading me, even in urban Santa Rosa.

This is Michael Ellis with a perspective.



Posted on

November 8, 2010