Welcome Quail, California’s Attractive State Bird, to Your Garden – Marin Independent Magazine

Welcome Quail, California’s Attractive State Bird, to Your Garden – Marin Independent Magazine

California quail live on the West Coast, primarily in forest edges, coastal scrub, parks, and farms.

I don’t mean to offend my friends and family, but some of the best visitors I’ve had in my garden recently have had wings, not arms. At this time of year, birds seem to arrive in droves – some plucking seed pods from empty flowers, others splashing them, drinking them, and diving in and out of the fountain.

But my favorite avian guests, the California quail, arrived on foot. They scurried across the path of my garden, pecking, scratching and darting in and under the bushes as if playing hide-and-seek.

The Patriarch assumed his role as sentry, positioning himself atop a bush and emitting a chirping sound to alert the ship of any danger. The rest of the gang relied on their famous Chi-CAAA-go call to announce the occasional breakup from the group. I enjoyed this chorus of quail for about 15 minutes before they scurried off to forage elsewhere.

It’s hard not to smile when you see a quail. These attractive, appropriately marked birds always look like they have just finished Thanksgiving dinner, with their bellies toasty and full.

The male is distinguished by the distinctive plume that looks like a quote mark sprouting from his head but is actually six interlocking feathers. It features a showy combination of plumage with a black face outlined in white. Such a handsome man!

Alan Dibb / Marine Independent Journal

A group of California quail make their way onto the Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

His female counterpart, on the other hand, is much calmer. This is a good thing because its muted brown plumage and lack of facial markings provide camouflage when nesting. Quail nest on the ground, usually under bushes or brush piles and sometimes in broken branches or previously used bird nests. This makes them vulnerable to many predators, including bobcats, squirrels, owls, skunks, snakes and house cats.

Can coyotes help quail?

The California quail, Callippla californica, lives in healthy populations on the West Coast from Canada to Baja, primarily in forest edges, coastal scrub, parks, and farms. It is our state bird as well as the official bird of San Francisco. But ironically, San Francisco’s quail numbers have declined sharply in the past few decades, and reintroduction efforts have failed. Today, the California quail is considered extinct in San Francisco.

Land managers are now considering another attempt to reintroduce these birds to San Francisco. One surprising factor that may lead to success is the increasing wolf population. Although counterintuitive, researchers have found that parks containing coyotes have a 73% higher probability of having quail than similar parks without coyotes. The idea is that coyotes may keep populations of small quail predators such as mice and raccoons under control.

How to invite quail to your garden

Every living creature needs food, water and shelter, and quail are no exception. In addition to providing a shallow dish of water at ground level, here are three things you can do to roll out the quail welcome wagon.

First, provide thick shrubs for cover. This is where quail hide, rest and nest. Stick with the California natives. Some plants that work well to achieve this include quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis), holly-leaved cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), coffee (Frangula), toy (Heteromeles arbutifolia), California lilac (Ceanothus), wormwood (Artemisia), and currants (Ribes). ), and sage. (Salvia), sugarbush (Rhus ovata), lemonade (Rhus integrifolia), red raspberry (Rhamnus crocea) and Pacific blackberry (Rubus ursinus).

Matt Ross/Flickr

This quail-friendly park features buckwheat, Ceanothus, and sagebrush for cover and tall trees for roosting.

Next, provide open areas with low-growing plants and annuals, such as native wildflowers. This is where the quail forage for food. Good competitors include lupine (Lupinus bicolor and Lupinus nanus), clover (Trifolium), deerweed (Lotus scoparius), buckwheat (Eriogonum), and bush sunflower (Encelia californica). Quails particularly enjoy seeds in the pea family (lotus, lupine, and clover).

Finally, provide tall trees or shrubs for roosting. This is where quail sleep. Manzanita and cenothus are good choices. Oak trees are excellent because they provide food (acorns) and roosting sites.

Avoid spreading bird seed to attract quail because you will likely attract mice as well. Please also keep kittens indoors. Cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds every year.

Sponsored by the University of California Cooperative Extension, the University of California Marin Master Gardeners Program provides science and research-based information to home gardeners in Marin. Email questions to helpdesk@marinmg.org. Attach photos to inquire about plant pests or diseases. Please call 415-473-4910 to find out when the Master Gardener will be in the office or drop off samples 24/7 in the sample box outside the office. To attend a gardening workshop or subscribe to Leaflet, a free quarterly e-newsletter, go to marinmg.ucanr.edu.

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