Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bob White and the Bobettes

Northern Bobwhite male
The following is a special program brought to you uninterrupted by the grace of the Kansas Flint HIlls, rated "F" for "Fantastic".  Fair warning: Prepare yourself to fall in love.

I've had the great honor this past week to be allowed to watch a nightly reunion of a large brood of quail.  They have chosen, repeatedly, to mingle in my back bed less than 10 feet from the house as they settle for the night, right where I can enjoy and photograph them at my leisure through the windows.  I first noticed them last Friday evening as a large group pecking around the ground, and now to find them all that I have to do is look for Papa Quail, shown here to the right, who keeps a vigil on my trellis (the pink rose is 'Zephirine Drouhin') while his teenagers are running around nearby.

As you may know, the Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is a New World quail (Odontophoridae) which is pretty common, but secretive, in my neck of the world.  I often hear the familiar call "Bob-White" in the early mornings, but I seldom see the birds.  This game bird is usually monogamous and a breeding pair normally has 12-16 eggs per clutch, parents leading the young birds to food for a couple of weeks after hatching until they can fly.  I have a hunch that this group (11 birds are visible in the picture to the left) came from a nest right in the clump of bushes behind them, and they are just about large enough to take off on their own.  I feel very privileged to witness this stage of their life cycle so close and personal.

As a short sample of what I've been seeing, I'll attempt to post the two movies below to share with you.  The first shows the same group as seen above, with their stilted random movements.  The second shows the group moving out in exploration.  If you can stop the movie at the very beginning of movie #2, there are 20 quail visible in the frame, not including Dad who was still sitting on the trellis above.  This was a very large brood!


Or, the better quality YouTube link to the 2nd video is here

Just as quickly as they appear, the adolescent quail just as rapidly disappear into the shrubs and camouflage of the mulch, leaving only Papa Quail to continue to watch for danger until all are safely hidden.  I haven't picked out Mama Quail yet, but I assume she's somewhere with the brood on the ground, clucking with displeasure if the babies stray.   If all human parents were this responsible, there would be a lot less teen mischief and gang violence in our world.

Sometimes, I feel so lucky to live on the prairie that I could just melt into a puddle of happiness.


  1. Videos were working, but inconsistently and it looks like they were compressed. I'll try to post to YouTube later today and place a link to them.

  2. Great videos.

    Poor Bob. With 19 teenagers running loose he probably couldn’t even stop to appreciate the Zephirine right under his nose (beak.)

  3. Thanks for sharing your lovely garden discovery! I had a pet quail as a child who really bonded to us. They are a special bird to me.

  4. I guess if this were facebook I would press like.


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