california quail identification

California Quail: State Bird Facts and Stats!

The California Quail is the state bird of California and has been since 1931. They are common in most habitats, including grasslands, forests, and agricultural areas. The quail’s habitat ranges from southern Oregon to Central America, and they have also been seen as far north as Alaska. There are some reports that they live on every continent except Antarctica!

The California quails diet consists mainly of seeds, grains, berries, and fruits but occasionally eats insects or small animals such as lizards. They can be found in all seasons, but their populations swell during wet periods when food becomes more abundant. The mating season for the California Quail begins in early spring with males looking for females by singing loudly while displaying an inflatable air sac on the neck, which is how it got its name.

quail sats and facts

The California Quail can be identified by its red-brown colored feathers with white markings and a long tail that often points upright when in flight. In addition, they have a gray face with black cheeks and vertical white stripes below the eyes. Male quails weigh about 16 ounces while females are around 11 ounces, making them one of the smaller species of North American game birds.

The male’s call is very distinctive, consisting of four to eight short whistles sounding like “cook-cook-coo” or “buckwheat.”

  • Official California State Bird: California Quail
  • American Ornithologists’ Union Common Name: California Quail
  • Other Names: Topknot Quail, Valley Quail, Crested Quail, California Partridge
  • Family: Odontophoridae – New World Game Birds; California Quail and Bobwhite Quail
  • Scientific name: Callipepla californica
  • Origin: Central and South America, as well as Southern Oregon
  • Length: 10″ (25 cm)
  • Diet: Seeds, foliage, acorns, fruit, insects, spiders, snails, etc., account for <5% of the diet.
  • Reproduction: Clutch of 6-12 eggs, incubated by the female for 23 days; both parents care for young
  • Range: Resident in most of California and parts of southwestern Oregon, Baja California, and northwestern Mexico; also introduced into other states and countries
  • Status: Common resident throughout its range
  • Habitat: Resident in grasslands, foothills, woodlands, valley deserts; also found in oak-coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Found in brushy areas, open woodlands, scrub, orchards, and farmlands; common to abundant
  • Threats: Agriculture (primarily through the removal of native grasslands); loss of nesting habitat (brush clearance); pesticides; predation by domestic cats and dogs; disease (avian botulism), especially when concentrated at agricultural feeding stations; collisions with motor vehicles
  • Nest: A simple scrape on the ground lined with grass, leaves, and feathers

Bird watching Spots for California quails:

Here are some of the best places to see California Quail.

  • In Sacramento, California: Jepson Prairie Preserve and the Haggin Oaks Golf Course.
  • San Francisco, California: Golden Gate Park and Presidio of San Francisco.
  • In Los Angeles, California: Descanso Gardens and the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
  • In San Diego, California: Balboa Park and Torrey Pines State Reserve.
  • In Baja California, Mexico: The coastal town of La Paz.

California Quail vs Regular Quail

The California Quail is easily distinguished from other North American quails by its red-brown body feathers and long tail. The male’s distinctive call sounds like “cook-cook-coo” or “buckwheat.” The regular quail, found in the eastern half of the United States, is much darker with a shorter tail. Here are some other distinct features,

1. Size: California Quail are more extensive, measuring 10 inches in length, while the regular quail measures only 6-8 inches.

2. Plumage: The feathers of the California Quail are red-brown with white markings, while the regular quail is primarily gray with black and brown streaks.

3. Tail: The tail of the California Quail is much longer than that of the regular quail and is often held upright when the bird is flying.

4. Eyes: The eyes of the California Quail are surrounded by vertical white stripes, while those of the regular quail are not.

5. Neck: The male California Quail has an inflatable air sac on its neck, not found on other North American quails.

6. Call: The call of the California Quail is a series of 4-8 short whistles, while the regular quail has a single long whistle.

7. Range: The California Quail is found only in western North America, while the regular quail are found in eastern and central North America.

8. Habitat: The California Quail prefers open woodlands and grasslands, while the regular quail prefers dense forests.

9. Status: The California Quail is common throughout its range, while the regular quail is considered a species of concern in some states.


There you go – everything you need to know about the California Quail! This brave little bird is a common sight in many parts of the state and is well worth keeping an eye out for when bird watching. As one of only two state birds in California, the California Quail holds a special place in the hearts of many residents. So get outdoors and start looking for them!

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