These are plump birds that tend to stay on the ground. Males and females are both are gray overall with brown sides that are streaked with white, and both sport a black plume feather on the forehead that bends forward. Males have a black face outlined in white and a red cap. Females have a gray head and face.
The Gambel’s quail is named in honor of William Gambel, a 19th-century naturalist and explorer of the Southwestern United States.
These birds mainly move about by walking and can move surprisingly fast through brush and undergrowth. They are a non-migratory species and are rarely seen in flight.
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 these birds.
Most of the Gambel’s Quail diet is in the form of 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.
This week I’ve seen a few pairs of Gambel’s Quail walking around the desert with their brood of chicks. Young quail are capable of running around and feeding soon after hatching. They are fun to watch as parents and offspring frequently communicate back and forth with each other.