U.S. State Bird of California -
California Quail

California Quail

The California Quail, also known as the topknot quail or the valley quail are a widely distributed and prized game bird. It is known for its hardiness and adaptability.

The plump, gray-colored birds are smaller than a pigeon and the California Quail sports a downward curving black plume on top of its head and black bib with white stripe under the beak.

Flocks number from a few to 60 or more in the fall and winter months, but the form pairs in the spring to start the breeding season. They are common in neighborhoods where everyone is familiar with their "Chicago" call.

  • 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
  • Length: 10" (25 cm)
  • Diet: Seeds, foliage, acorns, fruit; insects, spiders, snails, etc., account for <5% of diet.
  • Voice: Male song a repeated, nasal put way doo similar to Gambel's, but final note longer and descending, individually variable. Other calls include relaxed waaaaw or waay; rapid spitting spwik wik wiw; shar, metallic alarm pit-pit; soft clucking ut, ut...
  • Habitat: Common in open woodlands, brushy foothills, stream valleys, suburbs, usually near permanent water source; broken chaparral, woodland edges, coastal scrub, parks, estates, farms.
  • Displays: Courtship: male bows, fluffs feathers, droops wings and, with tail spread, may rush toward female. Males often fight.
  • Number of broods: 1, 2 in exceptionally favorable years.
  • Nest: Usually concealed in grass or shrubs or next to log or rock, occasionally 10' above ground in bush or tree; shallow covered depression lined with dead leaves, grass.
  • Eggs: Averages 12-16 white to creamy eggs, marked with dull browns. 1.2" (31 mm).
  • Incubation period: 18-23 days
  • Fledge: 10 days after hatching
  • Longevity Record: 6 Years and 11 months (according to USGS Bird Banding Lab
    but they no longer present data for game birds, because they are no longer banded with USGS bands)

California Quail

This is an excellent video showing Males calling and females watching over chicks as they forage and the female broods them when they stop to rest. Chicks can be seen when very small, then again when about half grown. A good example of California Quail living in a neighborhood.


The California Quail became the official California State Bird in 1931.

California Quail


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