San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[San Diego County Bird Atlas Project]

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Gambel's Quail
Line drawing of heads of California and Gambel's Quail, by Philip Unitt, 1997
California Quail
Gambel's Quail
LISTEN to the Gambel's Quail (55 KB)

For many years, I have been deeply skeptical of any reports of Gambel's Quail in San Diego County from outside the floor of the Borrego Valley, the area from which the species was first reported in the county in 1928 and the only area from it has been documented with a specimen. Phil Nelson, however, sold me on his identification of the species in square 124, Yaqui Well, by describing the difference in the head pattern of the males, which we quickly confirmed by examining specimens in the collection. This difference is likely often easier to see than that on the underparts, as the birds so often allow a view from the rear as they scurry away, hiding themselves well in even sparse desert scrub. The forehead of a male California Quail is mostly whitish (with some black shaft streaks) to the whitish band behind the forehead, if any, hardly contrasts. On the Gambel's quail, however, the forehead is mostly black, so the white band on the crown stands out in bold contrast between two black zones.

--Philip Unitt, from the fall 1997 issue of WRENDERINGS, recording of Gambel's Quail by James F. Clements, drawings by Philip Unitt


Focus On ... | Fall 1997 Wrenderings | Bird Atlas Introduction