Facts About the California State Bird


The California valley quail goes by several different names, including the California partridge, Catalina quail and Topknot quail. This bird became the official state bird of California in 1931, winning the position in a unanimous vote. The scientific name of the California quail is Callipepla californica, and it belongs in the New World quail family.


  • California quails live on the ground. Their preferred landscapes are grasslands, woodlands, foothills, canyons and the edges of deserts. California quails enjoy places with plenty of brush around. The birds cover an area of the southwestern United States as well as Hawaii, British Columbia, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon and Australia's King Island. These birds remain in their homes year round rather than migrate to other locations.

Physical Characteristics

  • California valley quails are small, round birds. Their beaks are short and black, and their heads feature a curved black crown. Gender dimorphism exists among the California valley quail. Males feature blue-gray chest feathers with brown feathers on their winds and backs. The throat of males is black with white stripes, while the head is brown. Females have brown heads and backs, with lighter chests and bellies that have speckles. Though both sexes feature the crown feathers, the crown on males is larger.

Behavior and Diet

  • California quails are sociable birds. They live in groups known as coveys. Quail coveys range in size from smaller groups of 10 to upward of 200 birds. Male California quails will roost in trees, keeping watch as a sentinel to alert the covey of any pending danger. On the ground, coveys find softer areas to burrow a few inches into the dirt and create dust baths. Dust baths help the birds remove any debris from their feathers. These flocks stay together until the birds pair off for mating season. California quails eat seeds and plant buds while occasionally nibbling on small insects.


  • California valley quail males compete for a mate within their covey. Once a mate has been found, the male breeds with one female for that season. Females lay between 12 and 16 eggs per brood, with one brood per year. The eggs are a cream color with brown speckles all over. The eggs are laid within a holds in the ground lined with grass to act as the nest. Both parents tend to the chicks after they are born. Chicks attempt flight at around 10 days old, then remain on the ground for nearly a month before joining other quails in the trees for safety.

Scat and Tracks

  • California quails eliminate waste in the dust. Their scat is pellet shaped, often with a pointed end. The pellets are around half an inch long. Many times, white material is visible within the scat. Their tracks look similar to most other quail tracks. California quails feature a backward-facing toe known as a hallux, which can be seen in their footprints. When walking, their tracks are somewhat close together. Running, a California quail's tracks are further apart.


  • Photo Credit quail eggs image by ril from Fotolia.com
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