Learning Across New Dimensions
Bobwhite Quail Facts
The bobwhite quail is a relatively small bird that is about
10 inches long. It has a mixed plumage of brown, black,
white and buff making it almost invisible against the
vegetation of weedy fields and edges of the woodlands.
Bobwhite quail reside in pastures, abandoned fields, crop
fields, grasslands, brushy areas along forest edges and
shrubby meadows. The average home range size is 40
Bobwhite quail search for food in the early portion of
the morning and then again in the hours before
nightfall. Bobwhites feed on insects and weed seeds.
The juvenile quail’s menu is 85 percent bugs while
the adults’ diet is comprised of about 70 percent
seeds and 30 percent insects on a year-round basis.
Seeds of many plants such as ragweed and foxtail are
edible and the bobwhite is highly dependent on
these seeds during the fall and winter months.
During much of the year they travel in small groups
known as coveys, sleeping at night in a compact circle,
tails to the center. This roosting technique allows the
covey to conserve heat and be ready to fly in all
directions if approached by a predator. Hawks, skunks,
foxes, raccoons, owls, snakes, dogs, domestic cats, and
hunters are predators of quail.
In the spring, May through September, the male selects a
territory in which to nest and the female is responsible
for the nest building. The female will build a nest on the
ground in which she lays 10-15 eggs per clutch.
Incubation lasts 23-24 days. The chicks follow their
parents upon hatching and fledge in 6-7 days. They can
fly short distances at 10 to 14 days. Chicks survival is low
– probably no more than 30 percent survive their first
year. The major factors leading to the decreasing
numbers of bobwhite quail are habitat loss, intensive
agricultural practices, and harsh weather events.
Getting to Know Your Quail
• Is your quail male or female?
• Is it an adult or juvenile?
• Is your quail a carnivore, herbivore,
• What external features show you this?
• Do quail spend more time walking or
Is Your Quail Male or Female?
The coloration of the feathers on the head and neck
of older birds is how you distinguish between the
male and female birds.
Males have a distinctive white eye
stripe that extends from the bill
through the top of the eye to the back
of the neck.
Females have buff colored feathers
in place of the white feathers that
are present on the male bird.
Look at your quail’s beak
• Based on beak shape, what do you think your
• Is your quail a carnivore, herbivore, or an
Wading birds and shore
Probing shallow water and
mud for insets
Sturdy and pointed
Probing bark and trees for
Thick, curved, sharp
Ability to tear meat
Stout, conical shape
Bobwhite, finch, cardinal
Ability to sieve and filter
water for plants
Look at your quails’ feet
• Based on foot structure, what does the quail
use its feet for?
• How can you tell?
Webbed or lobed
Ducks and grebes
Swimming, walking on mud
Walking on mud
Claws or talons
Birds of prey
Sitting on branches and
Scratching ground for
The 3 functions of feathers
• Thermoregulation – Core body temperature is
108 degrees F
Is your quail an adult or juvenile?
To determine juveniles from adults you look at the
In adults, these feathers will normally be
uniformly gray. Juvenile birds will normally have
buff-colored tips on these feathers.
Find the mass of your quail.
How tall is your quail?
Position the quail in “normal walking position
Pull feathers from the bottom of the breast to
the head, and pull feathers off one of the legs.
Then gently cut skin to expose breast muscle.
Compare muscle color of breast and leg.
LIGHT MEAT VS DARK MEAT
Have you ever wondered why the breast meat on your
Thanksgiving turkey is light and the leg meat is dark?
Light meat does not have a good supply of blood rich in oxygen.
These muscles can react quickly, but soon tire. A turkey's quick
burst of flight relies on the rapid power of their "light" breast
muscle although they cannot fly at great distances.
Dark meat is muscle with a greater blood supply (more myoglobin)
and a supply of fat. These muscles can work steadily for a long time
without tiring. The dark meat of turkey thighs tells us turkeys are
good runners and walkers.
Is your quail a walker or a flier?
Eye and Ear
Function: Sight and Hearing
Vision is the major sense by which birds
perceive their environment.
A quail’s eyes are located on the side of the
head. Does this make them a predator or
Eyes in the front, I hunt
Eyes on the side, I hide
Birds hear over a range of frequencies
slightly greater than that of people. This
allows them to detect, locate, and home
in on a food source. Their keen sense of
hearing also protects them from
Function: Oil gland used to waterproof feathers
Function: Provides an attachment point
Now let’s follow the path
of a seed as it is consumed
and digested by the quail.
Esophagus and Trachea
Function: Move food using peristalsis and air to lungs
Function: Food storage, allows quail to eat and run
Insert thumb under the breast and
gently pull back to open the quail
Function: Detoxification, cleanses the blood of waste
materials, breaking down of red blood cells
Function: Blood flow, circulation
Function: First stomach, soft food digestion
Function: Muscular organ for grinding food,
Sometimes contains grit (small rocks)
Opening the gizzard
Contents of gizzard and inside
Inner lining of gizzard- “koilin”.
Is its consistency more like
sandpaper, or tissue paper?
Duodenum and Small Intestine
Function: First part of small intestine breaks down
food for small intestine to absorb nutrients
Function: Remove water and transport waste
Cecae – function is
to provide microbial
digestion of highcellulose foods
Female quail with eggs
•Dispose of all bird parts in trash bin
•Wash and dry dissecting pan and all utensils
•Dispose of gloves in trash bin
•Fold aprons neatly
•Leave your lab table organized and cleaner then you found it
•How big is the bobwhite quail?
•What is the bobwhite quail’s habitat?
•How can you tell the difference in the male and female?
•What does the bobwhite quail eat?
•How many eggs does the female lay?
•Name some predators of the bobwhite quail.
•Is the bobwhite quail a predator or prey and how can you tell?
•How can you tell whether the quail is a walker or a flier?
•What is the food storage pouch called?
•What is the name of the first stomach?
•What is the name of the second stomach?
•What did the inside of the second stomach feel like and how
does this aid in digestion?
Final Thoughts for Consideration
The state of Texas is fortunate to have some of the best quail
hunting in the habitat range of the bobwhite. Hunterlandowner relationships are important in Texas, as any quail
hunter knows. The birds themselves belong to the people of
the state, but most of the land on which they reside belongs to
individuals. The bobwhite's potential as a game bird depends
on land use practices carried out by these landowners.
We must all be good stewards of the land and promote land
stewardship practices in order to preserve the habitat for the
This program funded by the
Texas Wildlife Association
Foundation and the Leonard