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Visit from the State Bird

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

While attempting to clean up a junk pile left from the previous owners, I noticed something moving in the bushes. I figured it was the usual bunny, squirrel, or lizard, but this time I had a fantastic and pleasant surprise. It was an adorable pair of California Quail with their brood of babies! I have never seen this bird up close, nor did I even know it was our state bird. It has some really cool markings and feathers, so this was a real treat!

Here's a bit more info on them:

  • Also known as Valley Quail or California Valley Quail; scientific name: Callipepla californica.

  • It was established as the state bird in 1932.

  • The quail population has fluctuated significantly throughout California. Once plentiful in San Francisco, by 2017 only one California quail remained in the city. Local birders named the male bird Ishi after the last known member of California's Native American Yahi tribe.

  • California Quail are plump, short-necked game birds with a small head and bill.

  • They fly on short, very broad wings.

  • The tail is fairly long and square.

  • Both sexes have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers projecting forward from the forehead, longer in males than females.

  • Adult males are rich gray and brown, with a black face outlined with bold white stripes.

  • Females are a plainer brown and lack the facial markings.

  • Both sexes have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales on the belly.

  • Young birds look like females but have a shorter topknot.

  • California Quail spend most of their time on the ground, walking and scratching in search of food.

  • In the morning and evening, they forage beneath shrubs or on open ground near cover.

  • They usually travel in groups called coveys.

  • Their flight is explosive but lasts just long enough to reach cover.

(The above picture is for reference and was not taken by me. My pictures are below and are littered with junk, but hopefully you get a good look at the babies in the video!)

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