Thursday, September 11, 2014

Second Covey

In Utah, September isn't usually considered the breeding season, but one of my California quail hens is disproving that assumption this year. Just a week or two ago, she showed up on the deck, accompanied by three tiny chicks - no more than two or three days out of the shell. Soft, fluffy, and at the time, too small to even get on any of the steps, they were still pecking industriously through the grass while mama took a well-deserved break by investigating the series of dish feeders three too-tall steps away.

Like any children, the chicks didn't stay small, and within a day or two they could climb onto the lowest step, and within a week, they managed to make it all the way up to the deck. They were still uncertain about this new environment, but since mama was perfectly at ease, they settled in to learn what birdseed is and how good it is for eating. I've seen them around a few times, and the chicks are rapidly growing, though after that first day, only two chicks have visited - bird mortality is always high, particularly later in the season when older broods are also competing for scarce resources and more predators are preparing for autumn.

It is interesting that with this covey, no male was attached to the brood for several days, but when I've seen them more recently, one seems to have adopted the flock. He does stay a bit more distant, however, keeping a protective watch slightly apart from mama and her chicks, but they don't mind his presence. Perhaps, in the spring, he'll be joining her in an even closer watch over a brood they share.

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