Living Bird Magazine
Scaled QuailCallipepla squamata
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Odontophoridae
Groups of Scaled Quail scurry through the desert grasslands of the southwestern United States, calling softly to each other to stay in contact. These elegant brownish-gray birds have an understated crest with a buffy top and a marvelous pattern of dark brown and gray-buff on the breast and belly. When encountering people or predators, the birds dash away through the brush, or else fly a short distance and reassemble. In spring, males perch in the open on a bush or fence post, singing a short, hoarse whock note.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Scaled Quail in sparsely vegetated grasslands with a few scattered shrubs and cacti. Driving or walking along a road or trail in the early morning or late afternoon should yield an observation of a pair or covey. Look quickly as most groups scurry away as soon as they are spotted (or even before). In spring, listen for singing males and then look for them perched in the open on a bush, fence post, or piece of farm equipment. Unmated males sing through the summer, which can be helpful for finding them late in the season.
- Colín Escamado (Spanish)
- Colin écaillé (French)
- Cool Facts
- The white crest gives the Scaled Quail its colloquial name of “cotton-top." It is also called “blue quail” because of its bluish-gray breast and back.
- Like other small quail that live in coveys, Scaled Quail sit in circular formations, facing outward, to sleep at night.
- As is true of many birds that inhabit harsh environments, Scaled Quail populations fluctuate because of the effects of weather and climate. Heavy snowfall in winter or prolonged drought in summer can make food unavailable and cause birds to starve. However, under favorable conditions, Scaled Quail reproduce rapidly and become locally abundant.
- In some groups of Scaled Quail there are more juvenile females than juvenile males, but more adult males than adult females. The reasons for these skewed sex ratios are not known.