Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Gambel's quail, Callipepla gambelii, is also known as the desert quail and the Arizona quail.

This species is similar to the California quail in size, form, and coloration. The Gambel's quail has a slightly paler back than does the California quail, and has a large black patch on a buff colored belly. The male has the same type of head plume, and black and white facial markings. Its reddish-brown crown and sides distinguish it from the California quail.

This species can be found in brushy thickets of the Mohave desert, and in irrigated agricultural regions in the lower elevations of southern Utah.

Pairing occurs in late winter or early spring. After pairing is completed, a breeding territory is selected and the male defends it against other males. Mating, followed by nesting, usually begins in April. Nests are usually placed in desert scrub vegetation where concealment is good. An average of 12 eggs is laid. The hen does most of the incubating, but the cock may sometimes share the duty. Eggs hatch after 21 to 23 days of incubation. Both parents attend the young.

Filaree is a primary food item in Utah. Numerous seeds are taken, with legumes being the most preferred. Cultivated grains, green vegetation, and insects are eaten when available.

It is believed that Gambel's quail were once distributed through southeastern Utah along the Colorado River to Moab. Severe winter weather may have eliminated them from these areas. Distribution is currently limited to scattered areas in the southern part of the state. The major population is found in the desert and irrigated agricultural areas of Washington County. Populations in the desert are largely dependent upon winter rainfall and the subsequent development of vegetation. During productive years, populations are capable of providing excellent hunting.


  • 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.