• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

California Quail


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The California Quail is a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume. Its stiffly accented Chi-ca-go call is a common sound of the chaparral and other brushy areas of California and the Northwest. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quail are common but unobtrusive. They flush to cover if scared, so approach them gently.


  • Chi-ca-go call
  • Advertisment call
  • Assembly call
  • Pit-pit alarm call
  • Male aggressive call
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The California Quail’s main call consists of three syllables and sounds like the bird is saying Chi-ca-go. It’s usually given when an individual is separated from its group or mate, as well as while a covey is on the move or preparing to move. The call lasts about 1 second and can be given 10 times or more in succession. California Quail use a repeated pit-pit alarm call to alert covey members of nearby danger. Mated California Quail pairs call antiphonally: the male makes short, shrill notes in time with the female’s Chi-ca-go call.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

You can attract California Quail to your yard by sprinkling grain or birdseed on the ground and providing dense shrubbery nearby for cover. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Find This Bird

Look for this bird in dry, patchy, low vegetation, and listen for the prominent Chi-ca-go call. These birds may forage calmly quite close to you, but will flush to cover if you startle them.

Get Involved

Report your sightings of quail to eBird to help create online maps and charts showing this species' abundance, distribution, and changes through time

You Might Also Like

For more photos of California Quail, visit the All About Birds Birdshare site

Explore sounds and video of California Quail from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

Find comprehensive information on California Quail and hundreds of other birds for as little as $5 in The Birds of North America Online from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists' Union



Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.