Please see Part I of this article for more information on caring for California Quail (Callipepla californica). I’ll continue here with breeding and introduce the closely related Gambel’s or Desert Quail (C. gambelii).
California Quails breed readily when housed in a tranquil, well-planted aviary (only one pair per aviary may be kept) that allows for nesting below shrubs or among tall grass clumps. Hens in peak condition may produce clutches of up to 20 eggs, with a second likely if the first is pulled for artificial incubation (for a possible total of 40 eggs per season!).
The chicks hatch after an incubation period of 23 days, and are usually well-cared for by the parents. Commercial chick or pheasant rearing mixes can form the base of the diet. Chopped greens, insects, hard-boiled egg and Egg Food are essential if the chicks are to thrive.
California Quail hybridize with Gambel’s, Bob-White, Douglas, Scaled and Mountain Quail, producing a range of interestingly-patterned hybrids.
Many feel that this quail is even more beautiful than its cousin the California Quail. I’ve never been able to choose one over the other, although a covey of wild Gambel’s Quails I encountered in Baja California were surely among the most spectacular birds I’ve seen. You can, however, have the best of both, as the two species hybridize regularly in captivity and where their ranges overlap in the wild (Baja California and Sonora, Northern Mexico).
The Gambel’s Quail occurs from Southern Nevada and Southwestern Utah through Southwestern New Mexico and West Texas to Northwestern Mexico. As its alternate name, Desert Quail, suggests, it is indeed a bird of hot, dry habitats, but is usually found near a permanent source of water. They have been introduced to Hawaii, of all places!
Gambel’s Quail may be kept and bred as described here for California Quail (Please see Part I also). Oddly for a quail, hens sometimes nest on broken stumps and in other elevated sites.
This species is very well-suited for aviaries housing finches, softbills and other perching birds, but mated pairs will attack other quails and ground-dwelling birds.
You can read more about the habits and care of the Gambel’s Quail here.
A video of a group of California Quail in a commercial aviary is posted here.
Gemble’s Quail Pair image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Valerie Everett