California Quail in my Garden? Help!!

Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

My neighbor and I have been sharing two California Quail between our two gardens for several weeks now. They don't seem to eat the Quail/Dove seed I throw on the soil (although it sprouted!!). They seem to come and go and I often see them on the sidewalk, gutter and street and then don't see them for awhile. Earlier today I was in the garden which is terribly over grown, and took my arm to move some Watsonia that were dragging on the ground, to see if they would prop up, and Holy Shmoly there I uncovered the Quail nest with 6 eggs (I think, I was so flabbergasted and didn't want to disturb a thing so I dropped the Watsonia and got out of the garden.) Don't the quail sit on their eggs like other birds? Or did I scare a parent off? I am not going near the nest again for fear of disturbing them , although I would love to take a photo of the eggs. The parents are pretty comfortable around me, but now I am concerned because I haven't seen them for over a day now. As I mentioned the garden is totally overgrown (not in my eyes) and they can run around under the fresh growing plants for days on end without being seen I guess. Any ideas about anything other than just leaving them totally alone? Thanks, Xuling
PS This is a first in my area for seeing the Quail in a residential neighborhood. There are Quail in the area, but in the countryside and parks, not in town.

This message was edited May 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Marlton, NJ

Hi xu, Sorry this did not get answered yet. I'm sure Resin or one of our "westerners" can help you out.


Las Cruces, NM

If it's warm enough, the parents don't need to stay sitting on the nest continuiously. As the temperature drops at night, they will probably come back to the nest. Also, I don't know what type of quail/dove food you tried, but I have about 50 gambel's quail living in my yard and they LOVE cracked corn. I buy big bags (25lb I think) of the corn at Walmart. It is really inexpensive (about $6). You might try spreading some corn on the opened ground a few yards away from the nest, and then keep a watch out for the parents. They mostly tend to feed in the early morning and just before sunset.

Hope this helps!

(Sharon)SouthPrairie, WA(Zone 7a)

I think NM Jane is right. The birds don't need to sit constantly. Actually the eggs need a bit of a "cooling down" time daily. My only worry would be the predators that might find the nest. Ground nest are particularly vulnerable. My minature Schnauzer would find a nest and bring in a "prize" egg to me. Good luck, as baby quail are the cutest.

Norman, OK

Quail don't start incubating eggs until all the eggs are laid, otherwise they would be hatching randomly and survival would be low. In hot climes, sometimes the ground temperature can start the eggs incubating as they are laid, resulting in a poor annual production. But, they will leave the nest periodically even when they are sitting.

Not much you need to do. Quail have survived about 12 million years and actually did better without human 'help'.

Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

thanks everyone :) i haven't seen the parents for days now and am afraid to look at the nest and distrub anything. so i will just wait and hope to see the parents, or the whole brood, soon. xuling

Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

Please Post when you do see neighbor calls the chicks "Walnuts".....Deb

Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

Yo, well I finally saw the male Quail late this afternoon!! So I am making good wishes that the female and the eggs are still there. It has been three days since I saw either of them. After I saw him today I took a shallow plastic bowl and filled it with pebbles and then filled it with fresh water and placed it under a bush in the shade near the nest (not too close, I was afraid to get too close). Hopefully they like fresh water. I don't know what they do for water. I have a big bird bath in the back yard that lots of birds use but have never seen the Quail. Is the water dish ok to do? Xuling

Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

I have a small hypertufa trough I made sitting on the ground which I fill every day and our quail use it for water.

Thumbnail by Depsi
Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

you can see the trough just in front of the quail...Deb

Thumbnail by Depsi
(Sharon)SouthPrairie, WA(Zone 7a)

The babies certainly do look like walnuts. Last year the ones by my E Wa house had a second hatch and at least a dozen babies were following the parents. I don't know if they were all theirs or if they might have been babysitting.

Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

Hola, I had been taking peeks at the nest every once in the while and one of the parents would be on top covering the eggs. Finally I couldn't stand it any more, knowing the chicks had to have been hatched by now, and took a peek and the nest is there with six quail eggs pretty neatly broken in two, empty. And I haven't seen either parent for days, and haven't seen any babies. So I am going to wait a wek and peek again and if it looks the same will take some pictures. do the babies and parents take off for new grounds so soon after hatching? xuling

Northumberland, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Quail chicks move away as soon as they're hatched - it'll be OK to look now.


Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks for the info, it makes me feel better that I didn't do anything to disrupt their lives. Xuling

West Pasco, WA

I had an overgrown hayes starburst hydrangea that was lying on the ground and just as I was trimming away the last branch while cleaning it up, I uncovered a quail nest with eleven eggs. The nest is exposed about eight inches away from the bottom of the plant. I took a few of the branches that I cut off (about 15 inches long) and draped them across the eggs. Does anyone know what I can do to protect the eggs without putting off their parents? I am just heartsick thinking what damage I may have already done.
I have some rather large decorative rocks in the yard. Could I put one close to the nest and drape something over it to help protect them? Lesson learned. I have two more of the same bushes that I intend to leave alone until fall and will let them go in the future hopefully for nesting purposes.

(Zone 5a)

We learned when we trimmed some things last year, that alone disturbed the parents. They abandoned the nest. The parents recognize any disturbance, so the damage is done. Not much you can do. Just do your best to prevent future episodes.

Yeah, it was a hard lesson learned last year and we were devastated because it was Dickcissels and we thought they would have been done by mid-August. Now for our area, any tree/shrub cutting, trimming, etc. will be done by mid-March or wait until October. Depending on weather and such, we could have early Robins starting on nests and late Mourning Doves. Or if you know nesting habits of some birds, you could trim some things. I would feed safe in trimming our front shrubs which I let overgrow the last two years for birds, but now it's getting a little out of control. We had nesting Chipping Sparrows earlier, but the latest batches have been in the back and side yards.

Our poor farmer neighbor who mows our grass for hay had to live with us saying not to cut until the Bobolinks were done. Now we had to call him again because we heard Bobwhites in the pasture. I am trying to convince my husband that we should just leave the pasture alone for the birds. He's not not quite ready for that.

Windsor, CA(Zone 9b)

I am so sorry to hear about your situation with the Quail. My quial family left and never returned although I left the nest undisturbed in case they might return the next year. I have not even seen quail around here for two years. Just too many houses and people I think. Xuling

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

My quail left my back landscape with the arrival of our new cat. They have moved across the greenbelt up near the entrance by the tennis courts. I still get to see them when I walk the dogs. But that is not as much fun as watching them from your kitchen window.

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