Wednesday, January 13, 2016


There are many words for a flock of quail - drift, flush, rout, covey, pack, bevy - but in my yard this winter, the term frenzy best describes their antics.

I do love my California quail, and I've never been shy about welcoming a few to the yard. Until this yard and this winter, however, I've never had the occasion to welcome a few dozen at once. They've discovered that my broad, deep deck provides exceptional shelter, and they regularly roost beneath it (as evidenced by the maze of tracks that lead about the yard but all return to the deck - some of their trails are so popular they've carved their own tunnels through the snowfall), but they're not shy about coming out to feast. At any popular mealtime, I've had up to 30 or more quail feeding, split among the different feeding areas in the yard. The first area they typically encounter is the elongated bench on the deck where I have three levels of cracked corn - on the bench itself, on the deck, and on the ground under the edge of the deck. After sampling that, the quail move to the back fence and particularly enjoy scratching beneath the three hanging feeder stations, especially the two filled with hulled sunflower seed. They also eagerly scratch around the platform ground feeder sheltered underneath an oversized glass patio table in the middle of the yard, even uprooting tufts of grass in their eagerness to find the next morsel that may be mixed seed or additional hulled sunflower seeds.

Of course, I'm happy to oblige in providing those morsels. Not only do I refill the feeders every 2-3 days at least, but when I do, I sprinkle extra handfuls of seed directly on the ground for the quails' convenience and feeding pleasure. Of course, it's my pleasure too, and I delight in seeing the covey visit. They spread out with each feeding area hosting a dozen or more birds at once, and their plump little bodies are sometimes so thick beneath the feeders that neither snow nor grass is visible, it's just a roiling mass of quail and quivering topknots.

It's hard to get a photo that accurately shows the extent of the flock, but I'm so amazed at its size that I count it nearly every time they all arrive - and each time I'm stunned to have so many visitors. All are welcome, of course, and I'm glad I've found a good deal on cracked corn... I'm going to need it!

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