I took a trip into town a few days ago, mostly for garden supplies. On the way home with the car loaded with all kinds of stuff, I realized that I had forgotten to stop at the local feed store.
I was only about a mile past the store so I turned around in the next rural driveway I came to and guess what I saw walking up this guy’s driveway? A pair of California Quail (Callipepla californica) with about a dozen chicks! (Click on photos for full sized images).
Ok, where in the heck is my camera? It’s usually sitting on the front seat which is now covered with various items, the floorboard is packed full of food and so is the back seat. I look up the driveway again and the quail family is still slowly making their way up the steep slope, the tiny chicks all huddled around the female as the male took the vanguard position.
A typical clutch for California Quail is 12 to 14 eggs but they can have more than 20 in a clutch. The female usually does all of the incubating which begins after the entire clutch is laid, producing a synchronous hatch.
The synchronous hatch of the California Quail is accomplished by vocalizations and continuous clicking sounds. Then, just before hatching, the young give a hatching call and the entire clutch is usually hatched within four hours1. You can hear some of the California Quail calls here.
The chicks are born precocial meaning they have their eyes open, they are covered with down and they are ready to go!
They immediately follow the parents, pecking at the ground. Their yolk sacs will be absorbed in two weeks when they have developed foraging skills1.
These chicks probably hatched this morning and the parents were taking them out on their first excursion. The male had gone ahead and was standing sentinel on top of the rocks above but the female was keeping her chicks well hidden underneath.
This straggler finally joined its siblings giving mom some relief I’m sure.
Now that they were all together under mom’s watchful eye, they could relax in their camouflage down coats.
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References: 1Birds of North America Online