When baby quail hatch, they are immediately able to walk, see and eat soft vegetation. Quail in Arizona nest on the ground in brushy places that predators have a difficult time penetrating. Once the babies develop strength, the parents lead them out of the nesting area to look for food. The baby birds follow the parents in a nearly straight line and move quickly. Typically the mother leads the pack and the father follows, herding stray babies back into the fold. The mortality rate for baby quail in Arizona is high, but quail make up for this by producing many viable eggs. Arizona has three quail species, the Mearn's quail, found in southeastern Arizona mountains, the Gambel's quail and the scaled quail, found in elevations below 6,000 feet.
Find a quail habitat. Quail live in the fringe areas around cities in the Arizona deserts and in the desert itself. The Sonoran Desert provides a rich habitat for quail since vegetation is plentiful and lush. Parks that ring the cities in Arizona like Lost Dutchman's State Park just east of Phoenix or the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson have high populations of quail native to Arizona.
Wait for temperatures to warm. The eggs do not hatch until temperatures warm up in the deserts of Arizona to 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, typically in late May and early June. Mearn's quail do not breed until mid to late June in the oak savannas and woodlands in southeastern Arizona. Of the types of quail, the Mearn's are the most difficult to see because they live entirely on the ground in tall grasses; this breed cannot fly.
Look for mature quail pairs. Quail are primarily ground dwellers and only fly when they perceive danger. Quail move quickly on the ground and usually travel in pairs. After the eggs hatch, the whole family travels as a unit, with the babies following closely behind. Baby quail have downy feathers and move nearly as quickly as their parents on the ground. Newly hatched quail are about 1 inch high. Gambel quail hatchlings have black or dark brown stripes that run horizontally down their backs, separated by white stripes. Scaled and Mearn's quail babies have similar stripes, but the colors are tan, white and light yellow. Scaled baby quail develop white tufts at the top of their heads, while the Gambel's quail grow black tufts. Mearn's quail have no tufts.
Tips & Warnings
- Pick up a stranded baby quail if you observe from a distance that the parents are not calling for it and it has been alone for 10 minutes or more. The Arizona Covey, a group dedicated to rescuing baby quail, recommends keeping the baby warm to save its life, while contacting a bird rescue organization. This group also states that an air-conditioned house is too cold for a young quail, so if you bring it inside, place it in a box with a heating pad turned to low.
- Photo Credit Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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