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Northern Bobwhite Quail

Northern Bobwhite Quail

Colinus virginianus                                             Photo Fiona Sunquist ©


Named for its loud ‘bob whitecall, this quail is a small chunky bird with short rounded wings. Males have a black cap, white throat and chin, and a white stripe through and above the eye to the back of the head.  Females have a tan colored throat and no black neck collar.

Bobwhite quail live in brushy areas interspersed with fields.  They prefer edges, fencerows and areas with vegetative cover.

Bobwhites are active during the day; they feed on seeds, fruit, insects and green plants.  Pairs are monogamous with pair bonds sometimes persisting between breeding seasons. Males advertise during the May to August breeding season with a distinctive bob-bob-white call.

Females lay large clutches of up to 14 eggs, which hatch after 23 days. The precocial young are about the size of a quarter coin, and feed largely on insects. The chicks double their weight every 10 days can fly within 2-3 weeks. 

Bobwhites are commonly seen in groups known as coveys. Coveys usually consist of about 10-30 birds, depending on the time of year. Every night, for safety, the covey forms a circle with their heads facing outwards, away from each other and their tails together.  If a predator startles them, the covey flushes in all directions.

Bobwhite quail are a popular game bird in the United States.  In 1970 an estimated 35 million of them were shot.  In the southeastern US these tiny birds were instrumental in the preservation of some of the best examples of old growth high pine.



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