Bob White Quail (Colinus virginanus virginianus) I By H. O. King

Distribution: Eastern United States of America.

Description: Cock. White throat and white eyebrow stripe which extends downwards to the neck. There is a black band running through the eyes and bordering the white of the throat. The back upper breast and wings are rust-brown with yellow and brownish-yellow spots. The breast is brownish-yellow and white with narrow black stripes. The crest is barely visible. Hen. Is lighter in colour, has the throat bright buff and the black markings are less defined. Length 9 inches.

This is one of three Bobwhite Quail and is one of the most popular in Avicultural circles. In the native state Bobwhites increased for a century or more as they virtually followed the plow, west across America. They were well suited to the mixed habitats of the early American small farms. Today there are Bobwhites to be found in some city parks and along rivers bordering and meandering through many cities and towns. This quail got its popular name from its call of Bob-white! Ah, Bob-white, Bob-Bob-White.

Nesting requirements are simple and all that is used is a scrape in the ground and a bit of straw or a few leaves to line the nest. In the wild the nest would be very well camouflaged. That, added to the habit of the hen to sit very tightly, they are extremely difficult to locate. The nests are usually under scrub or in tall grass and a cover dome is constructed and a side entrance which makes it hard to locate. This fact may account for the Bobwhite’s reluctance to sit on their own eggs in Australian aviaries as they are usually kept in open flight aviaries, often as terrestrial dwellers in Parrot aviaries devoid of any natural cover. The usual clutch varies between 12 and 20 eggs, which are white or cream coloured and lightly speckled with brown. Incubation takes 23 days. Nest building and incubation are usually carried out by the hen alone but should she die or be killed, the cock may take over and carry on with the incubation and rearing of the young. It is usual for this species to be double brooded.

The young quail, like their close relative the pheasant, are capable of some flight when only one week old, but usually hide in the undergrowth when disturbed and remain there until “All Clear“ is sounded. These birds are reluctant to be in areas where it is cold and/or damp and, even in the wild, will wait until the sun is well up before venturing out into the grass that is now dry of dew. The birds usually sleep on the ground in a group in a circular pattern facing outwards. This is a good defence against being approached by any predator without their having noticed, to ward off or confuse any would be attacker. The quail will all “explode” up and out at the last minute causing confusion as to which one to chase. This method of sleeping also means added warmth for each other.

These birds are omnivorous but up to 80% of their diet consists of vegetable matter. They live up to 9 years of age in captivity but in the wild would be lucky to reach 5 years.