Northern Bobwhite

By Dave Hanks

Here is another species (like the Killdeer) that is both precocial and named after its call, which is a most distinctive clear whistled “bob-white” or “bob-bob-white”. The syllables are slow, widely spaced, and raising a full octave from beginning to end.

This plump quail is 10 to 11 inches long with a 15 inch wing span. It has a prominent white stripe on its head, and a prominent white throat. Bobwhites are chicken-like birds of the eastern United States and Mexico that can be seen all year long. They feed on the seeds and insects found in brush-lands, open woodlands, agriculture-lands, grasslands, and even roadsides. They are usually monogamous and both parents will incubate the eggs for 23-24 days. Eggs are laid over a 3 week period but will hatch within an hour of each other. The young talk to each other, while still in the egg, which seems to synchronize their development. The precocial chicks will fledge at two weeks. These birds will usually raise two broods a year of 12 – 16 eggs in each.

Bobwhites are shy and reclusive. When threatened, they will crouch and freeze, relying on camouflage for protection. When not raising chicks, they will feed and roost in coveys. They roost on the ground in a circle - with heads facing outward. When confronted, they will explode upward which confuses predators.

Sightings made here in Idaho are rare. My nephew, however, photographed one a year ago in Rock Creek Canyon. He had wondered if the Fish and Game Department had introduced them to this area, but was told that they had not. It was just a happenstance sighting of a bird out of its range.

This well camouflaged bird may be reclusive, but its loud, unmistakable call will let you know of its presence.

(Blending in with the roadside vegetation)