UNLIKE ITS RELATIVE, the mountain quail, the valley quail is an inhabitant of the lower foothills and valleys. This bird is of medium size, being 10 inches in length. The adult male has a conspicuous black "comma" shaped plume. The top of his head is dark brown; throat black, encircled by a white band; breast brownish gray, with a rich chestnut patch in the middle of the belly; back chiefly brown; tail grayish. The adult female is brownish gray and somewhat smaller than her mate. She has the scaled belly and streaked flanks of the male, but lacks the chestnut patch on the belly and the black throat patch of her mate. She also has a smaller plume. (See illustration.) The plump form, together with the curved black plume, which is about 1 inch long, and the scaled feathers along the belly, distinguishes this quail from any other bird.
For many years, several pairs of valley quails have lived at park headquarters at Ash Mountain in Sequoia National Park. Here, they seem to feel and appreciate the protection given them. By the last week of April these quail are usually all paired off and about to nest.
On March 10, 1935, I had an excellent opportunity to test the speed at which a quail flies. While driving along the highway just below the park boundary, a female valley quail flushed from a bush by the side of the road, about 50 feet ahead of me, and flew at full speed directly down the highway. I stepped on the gas and found that when she was doing her best she was unable to draw away from the car when the speedometer registered 36 miles an hour.
On October 16, 1936, I photographed six different California gray foxes that had become accustomed to the presence of human beings and congregated at night about the cabins of Ash Mountain to pick up any stray food scraps that were thrown out. A family of California coons consisting of a female and four young, three striped skunks, and one small spotted skunk also came about the buildings nightly. Seeking to determine the effect of this unusual concentration of the so-called "predatory" animals on the quails, I made a careful investigation and found that the quails not only maintained their former numbers but had increased slightly. Repeatedly I counted 16 adult quails, while two seasons previously there had been only 10 or 12.
Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010