California quail

I have had numerous encounters with this cocky self assured bird, the latest (2006) being a solitary male not far from the Main Street of Greytown in the Wairarapa.

When I first went to the farm in the Waiotahi Valley in the eastern Bay of Plenty in the late 70s, there was a large covey of them there and I must confess to having shot a few of them as they make great eating, among the best of the game birds. However, I don't think I shot so many that it caused their virtual disappearance. The falcons may have had something to do with it as one day I found on a farm track a neat circle of quail feathers. But it probably had more to do with the huge flock of "wild" turkeys I encouraged, the competition perhaps proving to be too great. Who knows really, as their decline could also have been caused by rats or stoats of which all the quail are particularly susceptible, but I came to miss their loud three beat call with the emphasis on the second beat, often heard in the quiet of an evening.

There were also a lot of California quail in those days around at Ohiwa Spit, earning a good living in the vegetable gardens of the tolerant householders there, somehow managing to survive the predations of cats, perhaps less of a threat than stoats and rats.

According to Oliver, "the California quail was first imported into the Nelson district in 1865 and during the following ten years into the Auckland, Canterbury, Otago, Southland and Wellington districts. By 1890 it became so plentiful in the Nelson District that large numbers were frozen and exported to England".

The California quail's acclimatisation in New Zealand has been most successful and is common in open country especially hilly regions cleared of forest and in fern and tutu country.

Seeds and fruits form the greater part of its diet.

—  Greytown, Wairarapa, 2006.

California quail
Sub Species:
californica, brunnescens.

Other common names:  — 

California partridge.

Description:  — 

Introduced bird

25 cm., 180 g., brown with foward curving top knot, male has black throat.

Where to find:  — 

relatively common throughout New Zealand, in less developed areas.

More Information:  — 

»»»  California quail nest page

Youtube video  — 

»»»  California quail

Poetry:  — 

California quail

Between Yumbel and Cuatro Trigos I saw a shadow, a shape, a bird
slipping away with its beauty,
a fruit, a feathered flower,
a bird of pure pear,
a circumstance of the air,
a sandy smoky egg:
I approached - called out, its eyes
shone with the hostile rectitude
of two flaming lances
and above its pride it wore
two plumes like two banners;
I had no sooner seen
that vision than it vanished
and I was left with the dusk,
with the smoke, the haze, and the night,
with the solitude of the road.

— Pablo Neruda, The Art of Birds,
    (translated by Jack Schmitt).

Illustration description: — 


D’Orbigny, Charles, Dictionnaire Universel d’Histoire Naturelle, 1849.

Audubon, John James, Birds of America, 1840.

Reference(s): — 


Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Page date & version: — 


Monday, 2 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2006    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.