This species is often confused with the related
Valley Quail. Males of both species share the
black top-knot plume. Male Gambel's can be
distinguished by having no scaling on the lower
breast, but rather having a yellowish belly with a
large black spot. The top of the head is rusty brown
with a white border and a black face, forehead and
chin; the back and upper breast is grayish brown with
rusty brown flanks that have white streaks. Females
also have a top-knot, but it is much smaller in size.
Her overall coloration is similar to the male, but she
lacks the black and white face, the black breast spot
and the rust color on her is much lighter. The hen is
also slightly smaller than the male.
In the wild, Gambel's Quail form large groups or
coveys. Dr. Leland Hayes reported flocks as large as
200 during the winter in Arizona! During the spring,
these large flocks break up and the males begin to
draw females to their chosen territory. Fights between
rival males can become quite vicious while they try to
draw mates into their territories.
This species is a prolific layer in captivity and
clutch sizes are quite large. Here in Missouri, I
noticed that do not start laying until mid-May, but
I'm sure it is much earlier in warmer climates. In the
wild, the female does the incubating which lasts about
23 days. The male often stands close-by and helps with
the brooding. I've yet to have a Gambel hen go broody
in captivity, but they hatch well and the tiny chicks
are easy to raise. They do grow fast, flying at about
three weeks of age!
This species is real joy to have in your aviary and
the male's call reminds one of the old-west movies!
They are very active and nervous, therefore require a
larger pen than most quail. We keep our Gambel's on
wire, but they do well on the ground in well drained
pens. Our cages include many branches for perching and
a pan of sand for a dust bath. We provide limbs of
pine needles that the hens nest under.
Gambel's can be quite aggressive when adding new
birds to an existing flock during the breeding season.
If you must add a new bird, do so during the winter
when they form coveys. It is also a good idea to keep
many birds together during the cold months, this way
they will naturally form a covey for warmth.
As a treat, we regularly provide our
quail with spray millet and mealworms.
This page is an
The Game Bird and Waterfowl website
by Dan Cowell.
here to visit his website