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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 19, 2004 - Issue 115


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The Coyote and the Quail


Once upon a time a quail was up in the branches of a tree, and a coyote came up to her:

"I've brought some good news for you. Do you want to hear it?" asked the coyote.

"Do you really have some good news?" the quail asked.

The coyote answered: "It's about the two of us." Hear this, the coyote and the quail have made peace. Now we're going to be friends and you can come down from the tree. We'll hug each other as a sign of good will."

The quail kept asking if it was true what the coyote was saying: "Where was the peace treaty approved, brother coyote?" The coyote answered:

"Over there by the hunting grounds on the other side of the mountain. Hurry up and come down so that we can celebrate this moment of peace."

The quail asked: "Over there on the other side of the mountain?"

"May God witness that I am telling the truth. Come on down from the tree," insisted the coyote.

"Maybe you are telling the truth, brother. I see that the dog is coming to celebrate the fiesta with us, because you and he are also going to make peace. I see him coming near, I hear him coming. He's coming fast and he's going to grab me, now that you and he have made peace. Do you hear, brother coyote, do you hear?" asked the quail. She was very happy and came down from the branches of the tree.

The coyote accepted this explanation and ran away. As the quail said, the dog was coming, that's why he left. The quail didn't want to come down from the tree. She didn't fall in front of the coyote; if she had, he would have eaten her. She realized he was just telling her lies.

Thus ends the story of the coyote and the quail.

Print and Color Your Own Gambel's Quail
Gambel's Quail

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Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii)

Gambel's quail are found almost exclusively in the southwestern United States, mainly in Arizona. Their range extends into Mexico, east to parts of Texas, west to California and a small part of southern Utah, Nevada and Colorado. A few quail were introduced to Hawaii in 1928, 1958 and 1960, and a few remain there today.

Gambel's Quail live in warm deserts with brushy and thorny vegetation. These birds also survive well in cultivated communities and prefer mesquite lined river valleys and drainages near these lands. Desert mountain foothills, mesquite springs, plains with diverse vegetation and any area of the desert receiving slightly more rainfall than surrounding parts, are all home to good populations of Gambel's quail. These quail are non-migratory and annual movements of the covey are less than 2 kilometers. Gambel's quail prefer to roost in dense shrubs or trees at night. Shade from various types of desert vegetation is also very helpful. Dense cover provides shelter from predators. Common plants found in the quails' habitat include: desert hackberry, mesquites, little leaf sumac, desert thorns, catclaw acacia, scrub oak, and various other types of desert shrubbery.


Physical Description
Like other quails, Gambel's quail have a chunky round body with a plume on the head. Mature birds average eleven inches long and weigh from 160 to 200 grams. Males have a dark and thick plume, a black face and neck and also a black patch on the breast. Females have more dull and thin plumes and lack these black markings. Mature males have much more striking plumage than females. This quail has chestnut sides, olive wings and various white and cream-colored markings . Some variation in plumage occurs across its range; mainly birds being darker and more vividly colored in areas with more rainfall. Gambel's quail are known to hybridize with California and Scaled quails, but this is not very common.

Gambel's quail are considered monogamous, but sometimes a mature female will leave young with the male and seek another brood with a new father. In order to entice females, males offer small bits of food during feeding. Studies have shown that the rate of this process, called "tidbitting," is the basis for a females' selection of a mate

Female quail select nest sites usually on the ground. Preferably the nest is hidden under a shrub, rock, or protected site. Sometimes these quail may build in a tree two to ten meters off the ground if a suitable platform is available. The nest itself is bowl shaped, about four centimeters deep and thirteen to eighteen centimeters wide. Small twigs, grass stems, leaves and feathers line the nest. The eggs are dull white and are smooth, often containing brown spots. Average clutch size is ten to twelve eggs. During dryer years clutches tend to be smaller

Females generally incubate the eggs for twenty-one to twenty-three days. Males will attempt incubation if the female dies or is unavailable. Both parents care for young, and if one parent dies the brood can be successfully raised by the remaining parent. Young quail are capable of running around and feeding soon after hatching.

Gambel's quail are fast runners and only fly to escape danger, cross obstacles like roads, or fly to a roost at night. They are not fast in flight and prefer to remain on the ground if possible. The birds are not territorial and population density depends on brood productivity, which varies depending on yearly climate. A typical covey usually consists of an adult pair and up to sixteen young. Each covey has a specific home range, but does not defend this area and coveys commonly travel and feed in each other's home ranges

Food Habits
Ninety percent of the Gambel's Quail diet comes from plants. Various types of seeds and leaves are eaten throughout the year. During certain times of year fruits and berries from cacti are eaten. A few insects are eaten during the nesting season in spring and early summer. The quails feed in groups while slowly traveling along the ground. Typically a covey feeds twice a day, morning and afternoon. Communication between group members is kept with calls. The birds typically rest in a shady area during the hottest parts of the day. During cooler weather, the birds may feed and remain active for longer time periods. The quail has little if any free water requirements, but does prefer to live near and will frequent a water source if one is available.

These quail prefer to remain motionless and rely on camouflage to avoid predators, especially if hidden by vegetation. They are preyed on by a wide diversity of small to medium avian, mammalian, and saurian predators including snakes, raptors, foxes, bobcats, and coyote.

Thomson, M. 2001. "Callipepla gambelii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web.

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