Size & Shape
Like other quail, Gambel's Quail are plump, volleyball-sized birds with short necks, small bill, and square tail. The wings are short and broad. Both sexes have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers atop their small heads, fuller in males than females.
Richly patterned in gray, chestnut, and cream that can serve as excellent camouflage. Males have a bright rufous crest, chestnut flanks striped with white, and creamy belly with black patch. Females are grayer, lacking the strong head pattern. Neither sex is as strongly scaled as the California Quail is.
Gambel's Quails walk or run along the ground in groups called coveys that can include a dozen or more birds. They scratch for food under shrubs and cacti, eating grasses and cactus fruits. Flight is explosive, powerful, and short.
Lives in the hot deserts of the Southwest—the Sonoran, Mohave, and Chihuahuan—below about 5,500 feet elevation. Frequents mesquite thickets along river valleys and arroyos, shrublands and cactus, dry grasslands, and agricultural fields