Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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more heavily barred than in the female virginianus. Young : browner
than in virginianus. Wing : 4.39, tail 2.44, bill .59.

Distribution. Resident in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones, from west-
ern Kansas south through Texas to eastern Nuevo Leon and Central
Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Nest, eggs, and food like those of the bob-white.

The Texan bob-white is equally at home in the thorny thickets of
southern Texas and in the brushy creek bottoms of western Kansas.
At San Antonio, Texas, Mr. Attwater says the quail often come close
to his ranch and lay eggs in hens' nests, perhaps on account of the
protection afforded against snakes.

Except for the paler coloration so common in the more open and
arid regions, the Texan is a true bob-white, and for habits and voice
might have been bred in Ohio.

291. Colinus ridgwayi Brewst. MASKED BOB- WHITE.

Adult male. Face and throat black, under parts reddish brown ; upper
parts finely mottled with cinnamon brown, black,
and buff ; back of neck finely streaked with white,
Adult female : like the female of C. v. texanus, but
usually with a more marked chest band and
Fie 193 heavier barring on belly. Wing : 4.49, tail 2.81,

Dill .00.

Distribution. Southwestern Arizona and northwestern Sonora.
Nest. By one record, a shallow excavation beside a tuft of grass.
Eggs : 6, white, unspotted.

Food. Red ants, grasshoppers, beetles, seeds, leaves, and berries.

The masked bob-white, first discovered in southern Arizona by
Mr. Herbert Brown, finds congenial cover in the high grass of the
mesas and valleys, disappearing when stock destroy the grass. Mr.
Brown describes the male as strikingly handsome when the sun red-
dens the deep chestnut of his breast. His two characteristic notes
are the family bob-white, given in bold full tones from the top of
a rock or bush, and a 'hoo-we,' used when the birds are scattered,
especially toward nightfall.



General Characters. Crest of two long slender plumes ; bill and feet
stout, tarsus equal to middle toe and claw ; tail about three fifths the
length of wing, broad, rounded, with long coverts ; wing five inches or


1. Upper parts olive brown from tail to crest .... pic t us, p. 117.
1'. Upper parts grayish olive, bluish gray on nape . plumif erus, p. 117.

292. Oreortyx pictus (DougL). MOUNTAIN PARTRIDGE.

Adult male. Crest black ; upper parts deep olive brown, usually to crest,
top of head bluish gray, stripes on sides of back buffy or yellowish brown,
throat and flanks deep chestnut, flanks broadly banded with black and
white ; breast plain bluish slate. (See Fig. 194.) Adult female : crest
usually shorter. Young : crest blackish, barred at end with pale brown,
breast gray, marked with triangular spots, throat and belly whitish ; upper
parts grayish brown, specked with white. Length : 10.50-11.50, wing 5.25-

Distribution. Resident mainly in humid Transition zone of Pacific
coast region, from Santa Barbara, California, north to Washington.

Nest. On the ground, alongside or under an old log, bush, or other
shelter. Eggs : usually 8 to 12, creamy or creamy buff, unspotted.

Food. Grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and other insects, berries, seeds,
buds, and leaves.

Though 0. p. plumiferus has been given the name plumed par-
tridge to distinguish it from 0. pictus of the humid belt, both birds
are known locally as mountain quail, and their habits are practically

292a. O. p. plumiferus (Gould). PLUMED PARTRIDGE.

Like O. pictus, but upper parts olive, the hind neck usually partly or
wholly bluish slate like the breast ;
forehead generally paler, often whitish,
inner edge of tertials lighter buff or
buffy whitish.

Distribution. Resident in arid Tran-
sition zone from the west side of the Fig. 194.
Cascades in northern Oregon, except
near the coast, south along both sides of the Sierra Nevada, and in the
southern coast ranges to northern Lower California.

Nest. A slight hollow in the ground lined with a few dry leaves, pine
needles, and grasses, under shelter of thickets, bushes, weeds, or fallen
treetops. Eggs : 8 to 14, cream to reddish buff.

In winter when there are heavy snows on the mountains, the
quail come down to the foothills, and have even been seen in Pasa-
dena, three miles from the base of the mountains. In summer they
are most abundant in the dense chaparral of Transition zone,
though they go much higher.

Only once during two months spent in the Sierra, in the heart
of the plumed quail country, did I come face to face with one of


these handsome birds. It stood, marvelous to relate, upon a fence-
post by the road, and, as we passed, its long plume and rich banded
sides stood out more clearly than in a museum show-case. Even
that exhibition, though it had such a casual air, we more than sus-
pected was to hold our attention while a surprised family got to
cover. But though plumiferus vouchsafed us so little of its society,
the mountains seemed alive with its fleeing broods. In July the
young changed from balls of down with brown stripes along their
backs to well-feathered chicks, who essayed to fly with the best of
their elders. Twenty-one of these stubby-crested fledgelings started
up and trained across the road almost under our horses' noses one
day by Donner Lake, with only two old birds in evidence, but these
were probably joint mothers of the flock. From Donner to the
Yosemite a glimpse of dark whirring forms vanishing through the
trees was so common that at night we often asked ourselves, " How
many broods have we seen to-day ? " The clear pipe, and the hur-
ried warning of the old guardian, kah, kah, kah, there's danger ne'ar,
there 's danger ne'ar, the low conversational notes of a family when
undisturbed, and the motherly cluck and soft quieting talk of the
old bird to her brood were so often in our ears that now, as we look
back, they give life and richness to the memory of the majestic
Sierra forest.


General Characters. Tail more than two thirds as long as wing ; bill
small and weak ; crest short and not distinctly separated from feathering
of crown ; sexes essentially alike.


1. Belly buffy squamata, p. 118.

1'. Belly with chestnut patch castanogastris, p. 119.

293. Callipepla squamata (Vig.). SCALED PARTRIDGE.

Adults. Plumage pale, bluish gray and dull brownish ; head and
short, full crest fawn-colored, crest tipped with white ; most of under parts
and foreparts of back appearing scaled ; bluish gray of anterior under parts
changing to buffy on belly, sides dark gray streaked with white ; posterior
upper parts plain bluish gray, with conspicuous white stripe on each side
of back. Young : upper parts marked with black bars and white mesial
streaks ending in triangular spots at tips of feathers ; breast brownish,
with white triangular streaks, sides barred with brown. Length : 9.50-
12.00, wing 4.50-5.00, tail about 4.10-4.50.

Distribution. Resident in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones from Ari-
zona to western Texas and south to valley of Mexico.

Nest. On the ground, often under shelter of a yucca or low bush, some-
times in grain-field or meadow. Eggs : 9 to 16, white to buff, uniformly
spotted with buffy to reddish brown.

Food. Small beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and small seeds, grain, ber-
ries, and plant tops.



The scaled quail live in the arid belt of scrub oak, chaparral,
and mesquite extending from western Texas and New Mexico across
southern Arizona. Dry washes and gulches in the foothills seem
to be their favorite haunts, but they maybe found almost anywhere
not too far from water, even in valleys and out on open plains with
only scattered brush and cactus for cover.

As the bluish gray birds run from you over the gray ground,
dodging this way and that among the bushes, the most conspicuous
thing about them is the white tuft of their crest, and from its sug-
gestion of the cottontail they have been well dubbed cottontops.
Perhaps because they are so protectively colored they usually trust
to their feet to carry them out of harm's way, rarely taking flight
unless hard pressed. But when a flock does scatter, the birds are
astonishingly hard to find, though but a few yards away.

While shy in some places, they seem to be naturally rather trust-
ful, and one of the most vivid mental pictures one carries away
from their country is of a flock of the trim, delicately tinted quail
standing together among the bushes, looking up out of their mild
brown eyes with quiet interest and curiosity.

Though met with so commonly, the quail are more often heard
than seen. In the Pecos River country, where the rare blue sky
comes low to the chaparral on the level plain, from the sun-filled
brush day after day rings their companionable pe-cos' ', pe-cos'. The
note, though sadly nasal, soon falls on the ear as one of the most
musical of desert sounds, for like the smell of the sagebrush and
larrea it carries the charm of the big open plains.

29 3a. C. s. castanogastris Brewst. CHESTNUT-BELLIED SCALED

Like the scaled partridge, but upper parts browner, under parts deeper
buffy or more rusty brown, belly with a brown patch in the male, some-
times indicated in the female.

Distribution. Resident in Lower Sonoran zone from Eagle Pass through
the lower Rio Grande valley in Texas to Coahuila and Nuevo Leon,

Nest. Usually a hollow in the sand, under shelter of a clump of
weeds, grass, or prickly pear, slightly lined with dry grass. Eggs : about
15, white to buffy, distinctly and uniformly spotted.


General Characters. Crest distinct from feathers of crown, narrow at
base, and recurved, the feathers inclosed between the more or less ap-
pressed webs of the anterior plume ; tarsus slightly shorter than middle
toe ; wing four inches or more ; tail about four fifths as long as wing ;
sexes different.



1. Back of head and flanks rufous gambelii, p. 121.

1'. Back of head and flanks olive brown or gray.

2. Upper parts smoke brown, inner webs of tertials deep buffy or ochra-

ceous calif ornicus, p. 120.

2'. Upper parts bluish gray, inner webs of tertials buffy or whitish.

vallicola, p. 120.


1. Belly buffy, not scaled gambelii, p. 121.

1'. Belly not buffy, scaled.

2. Darker californicus, p. 120.

2'. Lighter vallicola, p. 120.

294. Lophortyx californicus (Shaw). CALIFORNIA PARTRIDGE.

Adult male. Crest black ; patch on back of head olive or dark brown,
bordered front and sides by black and white lines ; upper parts deep smoky
brown, with deep buffy or reddish brown stripes along sides of back ;
throat black, bordered by white, breast bluish gray ; belly scaled except for
central deep chestnut patch ; flanks dark olivaceous or smoky brown, streaked
with white. Adult female: head without black or white markings; gen-
eral color deep smoky brown ; belly scaled, without chestnut patch or
chestnut on sides ; sides streaked with white. Young : upper parts grayish
brown, feathers of back and wing coverts with dusky and whitish edgings ;
feathers of nape with faint white shaft streaks and dusky borders ; under
parts gray, barred with whitish. Length : 9.50, wing 4.35-4.70, tail 4.10-
4.70. (See Fig. 196, p. 121.)

Distribution. Resident in humid Transition and Upper Sonoran zones
along Pacific coast region from Monterey County, California, to southern
Oregon and northward. Introduced in Washington and British Columbia.

Nest. Usually a hollow lightly lined with grass beside a rock, under a
brush pile or other shelter. Eggs: generally 12 to 16, white or buffy,
irregularly spotted over the entire surface.

Food. Largely insects and weed seed.

The California partridge is the counterpart of the valley quail in
habits (see 294a).

294a. L. C. vallicola (Ridgw.). VALLEY PARTRIDGE.

Adults. Like californicus, but lighter colored, upper parts grayish
brown, edgings of tertials buffy or whitish ;
flanks olive grayish or grayish brown. Young :
chest gray, marked with triangular white
spots, belly faintly barred with grayish ;
Fig 195 Female upper parts brownish, streaked and spotted

with whitish.

Distribution. Resident in arid Upper and Lower Sonoran zones from
Oregon south through California and western Nevada to Cape St. Lucas,
Lower California.

When you come down the sides of the Sierra from the yellow
pines into the digger pines and oaks of the Sonoran zones in the
breeding season, the quail that fly before you are smaller and bluer
than the mountain quail above, and the flat tone of their quick w?to>



Fig. 190. Valley Partridge.

are-you-ah? who-are-you-ali? strikes the ear as a subtle expression of
the difference between the hot low-
lands and the cool mountains. The
lowland bird has two forms differ-
ing slightly in color, the valley quail
occupying the arid sections and the
California the humid.

The brushy parts of Golden Gate
Park in San Francisco abound with
quail, and from the benches one can
watch the squads of plump hen-like
little creatures as they move about
with stately tread or stand talking
sociably in low monosyllables. If
they hear a footstep on the walk they
start up and hurry across the path
like hens before a wagon, top-
knots dropped over their bills, necks
craned forward, and legs stretched as they patter along in double-
quick time. When less in a hurry they run in a stiff, prim way, the
cocks with a dignified gait, the hens with a demure feminine air.

Outside the parks, when the flocks are feeding the old quail act
as sentries, to the wrath of young hunters, who complain that the
cocks ' tell on them ' !

As the country becomes settled, the former hordes of quail dis-
appear, but they are still the game-birds of southern California, the
roads are still patterned with their footprints, and through the val-
leys they are closely associated with the charm of the mellow Cali-
fornia days, their melodious who-are-you-ah f coming from the hill-
sides in the cool mornings when the high fog is dissolving into blue
sky, coming from the chaparral in the warm noonday hours, and
echoing softly from the vineyards through the quiet golden simsets.

295. Lophortyx gambelii Gamb. GAMBEL PARTRIDGE.

Adult male. Crest black, forehead and throat black, bordered by white,
crown reddish brown ; rest of upper parts
plain bluish gray, terfcials edged with
white ; breast gray, belly with buffy and
black patches, flanks reddish brown streaked
with white. Adult female : similar, but
without striking markings ; head plain
brownish gray above, buffy streaked with
darker on throat ; belly uniform buffy, flanks
chestnut. Young : chest brownish gray,
streaked with white ; upper parts grayish
brown, minutely mottled, feathers with

Fig. 198. Female.

white shaft streaks widening at tip and with black spot on either side ;


feathers of nape without dusky borders ; belly white, unmarked. Length :
9.50-10.00, wing 4.45-4.70, tail 4.10-4.70.

Remarks. The Gambel partridge may be distinguished in nearly all
plumages by its belly markings the male by the black patch and ab-
sence of scaling ; the female by chestnut flanks and absence of scales ;
and the young by the white, wholly unmarked belly.

Distribution. Resident in Lower Sonoran zone from western Texas to
southeastern California, and from southern Utah and Nevada south through
central Sonora, Mexico.

Nest . A slightly lined hollow often beside a bunch of tall grass, in
freshet drift, or occasionally under a yucca. Eggs :, usually 10 to 12,
white to buff, irregularly spotted, blotched, and clouded with brown, the
blotches with a pinkish or purplish bloom.

Food. Insects, especially grasshoppers and ants ; also seeds, grain,
mesquite beans, berries, and tender leaves and buds.

The breeding season comes early in the valleys of the Gila and
lower Colorado rivers. By February the deserts bloom, the aromatic
creosote bush puts on its yellow robe, the big crimson and yellow
cactus flowers, the fragrant evening primroses open wide, and yel-
low tassels dangle from the mesquite. In the balmy spring morning
the fjrst sound to greet your ears is the shrill cha chaa' , cha chaa' , of
the cock quail from his perch on the blooming mesquite, and answer-
ing calls follow from up and down the valley. When the sun has
risen higher you find the quail in pairs, hunting among the bushes
for nesting-sites, talking in low, soft tones, the cock often bowing
and strutting with important airs and crest low over his bill. When,
after much careful prospecting, a nest spot is found safe from floods,
hidden from enemies, and within daily reach of water, the birds
settle down to home duties ; and before the flowers are gone may be
found leading about families of striped-backed chicks. The chicks
must be guarded from a host of enemies, but the old birds are wise
guardians, and early autumn shows large flocks of plump, nearly
full-grown quail, always on the alert, quick to scatter, but sure to
reassemble, calling back and forth in small piping voices till the last
of the brood is in. Later in the season the families collect in large
flocks, often of fifty or a hundred, and scatter in the daytime to
feed in the open, returning at night with a roar of wings to roost in
some dense thicket or brushy bottom-land, huddled together in a
snug, feathery mass.

To the pot-hunter and trapper the birds are easy prey, but with
proper protection they increase so rapidly as to be in no danger of
extermination. VEKNON BAILEY.


296. Cyrtonyx montezumae mearnsi Nelson. MEABNS

Bill very stout ; head with a full crest of soft, blended, depressed feath-



era ; tail much less than half as long as wing, its feathers soft, narrow at
tips, and hardly distinguishable from coverts; wing coverts and inner
quills highly developed, folding entirely over the primaries ; tarsus and
feet heavy, with long powerful claws ; sexes very different. Adult male :
head markings black and white ; tip of crest fawn color ; back pale
brown, barred, vermiculated, and streaked with white ; under parts with
median line dark brown and sides slaty gray spotted with white. Adult
female : head without stripes, prevailing color pale pinkish cinnamon ; upper
parts coarsely mottled and finely barred with black, brown, and lavender,
and feathers with coarse white shaft streaks ; chin whitish ; neck with
lavender cape specked and bordered with black ; rest of under parts light
cinnamon or lavender, breast and sides with black specks and shaft
streaks. Young : similar to female, but under parts thickly spotted.
Wing : 6.70, tail 2.28, bill .53.

Distribution. Resident in arid Upper Sonoran and Transition zones of
western Texas, southern parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and northern

Nest. On the ground, partly concealed by grass. Eggs : white.

Food. Grasshoppers, weevils, caterpillars, larv*, small beans, prickly
pear and other seeds, and great numbers of small bulbs.

In the rugged little ranges rising from the deserts of western
Texas, southern New Mexico, and Arizona, you find the Mearns
quail, the United States form of the Massena quail, from the zone
of junipers, oaks, and nut pines extending up among the big yellow
pines, but always where there is plenty of grass or scattered brush
for cover. When camping in its country we would often hear a
soft chr-r-r-r^r from the grass, and after locating it start for the
spot, only to hear the quavering notes repeated just as far beyond.
After another attempt the voice would be still across the gulch
then back of us till finally we gave up in despair, for at all times
the ventriloquial call deceived us. Fruitless hours may be spent
trying to tramp up the birds, and when you do find them you are
looking for something else, and they burst from the grass at your feet
with a stiff-winged roar and are around the hill out of sight or have
dropped into a thicket before you have recovered from your surprise.

While we were in the Chisos Mountains, Texas, Mr. Fuertes made
the interesting discovery that the quail under excitement spread
their crest laterally, as he has depicted it in the plate. In describ-
ing it he says : "Just after sunrise, while I was getting ready for
the day's work, a cock Massena quail ran up beside the little knoll
where I had placed my bed. He ran by me within fifteen or twenty
feet, at first apparently not noticing me. When I turned to watch
him he seemed to become more alert, quickened his trot, compressed
his plumage, and raised his head to its highest, as a guinea hen will
do when slightly alarmed. But accompanying this action he dis-
played his curious crest in a peculiar and striking way. Instead of
raising it as a bob-white would have done, he spread it out laterally,


like half a mushroom. This curious feature combined with the
compact neck and body feathers and striking facial markings gave
him as unique an appearance as could well be imagined."



General Characters. Head not crested ; tail about length of wing, fan-
shaped, with twenty stiffish broad, obtuse feathers ; tarsus feathered to


1. Tail without distinct terminal band .... richardsonii, p. 126.
1'. Tail with bluish gray terminal band.

2. Tail band wide (.50-.SO on outermost feather) . obscurus, p. 124.

2'. Tail band narrow (not over .40 on outermost feather).

fuliginosus, p. 125:

297. Dendragapus obscurus (Say). DUSKY- GROUSE.

Adult male. Upper parts dusky or bluish slate, finely mottled with

gray and brown, buffy brown
on wings ; hinder scapulars
usually with distinct shaft
streaks and terminal spots
of white ; tail blackish,
with wide bluish gray band
1.001.50 wide ; under

19g parts slaty, marked with

white on sides of neck and

flanks. Adult female : similar to male, but decidedly smaller, and upper

parts, chest, and sides barred and mottled with dark brown and buffy.

Young: upper parts yellowish brown, with irregular barring or mottling,

and black spots and white or buff shaft streaks widening at tip ; under

parts dull whitish, chest and sides spotted with black. Male : length 20-

23, wing 9.40-10.00, tail 8, weight about 2 to 3| pounds. Female : length

17.50-19.00, wing about 8.70, tail 6.

Distribution. Rocky Mountains, from Idaho and Montana south to

Arizona and New Mexico, and from the East Humboldt Mountains, Nevada,

east to the Black Hills, Dakota.

Nest. A slight depression alongside a log or under grass or bushes,

lightly lined with pine needles and grass. Eggs : 7 to 10, cream or cream

buff, spotted over entire surface with brown.

Food. Grasshoppers, worms, grubs, and wild berries such as bearber-

ries, raspberries, gooseberries, and currants, plant leaves and flowers, buds,

and fir needles.

Among the ranches the dusky grouse is commonly known as the
' fool-hen/ on account of its natural tameness and its unsuspicious
nature. Back in the mountain ranges where hunters are scarce and
usually in quest of bigger game, the grouse are almost as fearless
as barnyard poultry, walking out of your path with stately delib-
eration, or stopping to watch you near the trail. But after a little
experience with hunters and dogs they become as wild as deer and
almost as difficult to approach.


With the Indian as well as the white hunter they are favorite
game birds, both because of their large size and the delicate flavor of
their meat. VERNON BAILEY.

297 a,. D. o. fuliginosus Eidgw. SOOTY GROUSE.

Adult male. Similar to D. obscurus, but darker, sooty blackish with
narrower tail band usually about .60 on middle feathers and not more
than .40 on outer pair and without white on sides of neck. Adult
female: similar to female o&scurus, but upper parts darker, sometimes
washed with dark rusty. Young : darker and more rusty. Length : 15.50-
19.00, wing 7.00-7.50, tail 5.50-7.00.

Distribution. Northwest coast mountains, from Alaska south to Cali-
fornia and Nevada.

Nest. Similar to that of the dusky grouse. Eggs : 8 to 15.

The sooty grouse, like the wild turkey, is a bird of distinction and
peculiar interest wherever founds Climb a mountain ridge toward

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 16 of 65)