Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by P. Dotson
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The California quail, Callipepla californica, is also known as the valley quail.

Bird length varies from 9.5 to 11 inches and average weight is from six to seven ounces. Males are an olive gray above with a grayish-blue breast. The buff colored belly has a scaled appearance and is marked with an area of deep chestnut. The black throat and face are bordered with white. The most conspicuous characteristic is a short black plume which curves forward from the crown of the head. The female is more olive brown, the black and white markings of the head are absent, the plume is shorter and brownish, and there is no chestnut patch on the breast.

The species inhabits brushy areas adjacent to cultivated lands, particularly along streams.

Paired birds separate from the covey by late April and begin nesting in May. The nest is a slight depression lined with dry grass or other plant material. It is usually located in weeds or grass. From 10 to 16 dark-speckled, buff-colored eggs are laid. The eggs hatch after a period of 23 to 24 days in incubation by the female. Both parents share in care of the young.

California quail feed mainly on vegetable matter. Only about two percent of their diet includes insects. One of the favorite foods is clover. They also feed on weed seeds, waste grain, and many kinds of berries, fruits, and seeds.

The California quail is native to states of the Pacific coast. They were first introduced into Utah in 1869. Fourteen pairs were released in the vicinity of Fort Douglas in Salt Lake County. Subsequent releases, trapping and transplanting, and dispersion have resulted in establishment in many parts of the state. Heavy snows limit their food supply. They build up in numbers through a period of mild winters only to be depleted in severe winters. They are hunted as an upland game bird, producing excellent gunning in some local areas. Some of the largest populations exist within city neighborhoods and parks where cover, feed, and water are abundant.


  • Text modified from: Rawley, E. V., W. J. Bailey, D. L. Mitchell, J. Roberson, and J. Leatham. 1996. Utah upland game. Publication number 63-12. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City.