"Flocks Flee"

By Dave Hanks

Large groups are a security adaptation. Many eyes and ears insures that at least one individual will sense a danger. When that individual reacts, the whole flock will respond as one, and they’re gone. Many individuals are nice to select the best picture from, but a single is much less likely to “bolt” from the scene. This is especially true in autumn when birds are collecting for migration.

California Quail are apt to flee at anytime of the year. This is because several broods will combine after hatching to form large coveys. A covey may contain anywhere from 10 to 200 individuals. These birds seem to always forage in groups. When one gets “spooked”, away go all the quail. Even sitting in a blind, the slightest movement or sound will cause the whole group to flee the area. They feed on the ground, but roost in trees for protection when at rest. They will also call from a perch on a tree or post, especially in the early morning or at dusk.

Plant roughage makes up a large part of their diet and protozoans in their intestines help in the digestion process. Chicks acquire these micro-organisms by pecking at adult feces. This bird has a very characteristic topknot. It appears to be one feather but is actually a cluster of six. The species can be found in grasslands (if a lot of brush is present), foothills, woodlands, and canyons.

We were most surprised to find them in our yard one morning. They started coming under some bird feeders that were just outside our front window, hence, photos followed.

(California’s State Bird Symbol)