Ecology and Management of Gambel's Quail

In the Trans-Pecos region, Gambel’s quail show a preference for riparian vegetation.  Drainages are extremely important and washes and riparian areas are essential components of Gambel’s quail habitat. Typically, Gambel’s quail spend more than 85% of their time within 100 yards of a riparian habitat.

Home ranges for Gambel’s quail on our study site were strongly associated with riparian habitat and averaged 954 acres, and ranged in size from 403 ha to 1,651 acres.

Along riparian habitat, Gambel’s quail are often found near dense stands of fourwing saltbush, wolfberry, mesquite, Gregg’s catclaw, and other woody riparian vegetation.  Gambel’s quail also utilize riparian habitats that have been invaded by salt cedar, although these habitats generally lack diversity in food items for quail.

Nesting typically begins in April and lasts until June or July. Males seem to have no role in incubation, but maintain strong interest as they remain close to the nest to defend it from potential predators.  Females generally construct a bowl-shaped nest lined with small twigs, grass, leaves, and feathers.  Eggs are dull white, smooth and often contain brown spots. Clutch sizes average between 10 and 14 eggs. During dry years clutch sizes are often reduced and may contain as few as five eggs. Occasionally, Gambel’s quail may lay a second clutch in wet years. During these wet periods, chicks may be observed as late as September.

Brood size typically consists of 10-12 chicks. The newly hatched chicks are precocial and  dependent, to some degree, on the adult until they are approximately three months of age.  Chicks may be led away from the nest site by the female. Sex ratios for recently hatched Sex ratios for Gambel’s quail chicks is generally 50:50, however sex ratios begin to favor males as the summer progresses into fall and winter. Gambel’s quail broods are attended by both parents; however, a brood can be raised by a single parent if one of the parents perishes.  Chick mortality during the first three months is high, with morality rates approaching 50 % or more.


A dry creek bed that typifies riparian habitat associated with Gambel’s quail.


gambel's quail

Gambel’s quail are sexually dimorphic in that males are easily distinguishable from females.  Males, like this one, are characterized by the black mask and chestnut cap.  Females lack these 2 colored features are uniformly grey.