C Spots Farm

The Bob White Quail (Colinus virginianus)



The Bob White Quail is known as the Northern Bob White Quail. There are 22 recognized subspecies of Bob White Quail most found in different areas of the world.  The Bob White is a ground dwelling bird native to Mexico, United States and the Caribbean.  The name developed from its characteristic whistling call “Bob-white”.  In eastern North America the Northern Bobwhite is one of the most common quails in their habitat because they are the only species of quail that inhabit that territory.  The Northern Bobwhite and many of the subspecies are hunted as a game bird.  With populations in Sonora, Mexico and a reintroduced population in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona, one subspecies, the Masked Bobwhite, is listed as endangered.

The Northern Bobwhite is the only quail species found native to eastern North America.  It is a moderately sized round bodied bird.  As birds are found further north the body mass and weights increase in the population. The bill is short, curved and black-brown in color. The Northern Bobwhite is dimorphic (males and females differ in color). With a white throat and brow stripe bordered by black the males differ from the females. The males are an overall gray plumage with mottling on the wings, white scalloped stripes on the flanks and black scallops on the creamy underparts.  The females are similar but have a buff throat and brow without the black border and are duller overall. They both have pale feet and legs.

Some of the subspecies consist of Cuban Bobwhite, Jaumave Bobwhite, Florida Bobwhite,  Key west Bobwhite, Spot-bellied Bobwhite,  Plains Bobwhite, Grayson’s Bobwhite, Texas Bobwhite, Puebla Bobwhite, Godman’s Bobwhite, Black-breasted Bobwhite, Least Bobwhite, Thayer’s Bobwhite, Covolcos Bobwhite, Guatemalan Bobwhite, Salvin’s Bobwhite and Masked Bobwhite.

The Northern Bobwhite forages in open areas on the ground within spots of taller vegetation. Plant sources include wild berries, grass seeds, cultivated grains and partridge peas. They also consume small bugs, like snails, grasshoppers and potato beetles.

Year round the Northern Bobwhite can be found in grassland, agricultural fields, woodland areas, wood edges and roadsides. Its range covers the southeastern part of the United States from the Great Lakes and southern Minnesota east to Pennsylvania and up to Southern Massachusetts. They extend west to southern Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and all but westernmost Texas. It is not found in the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains and the southern tip of Florida. It is found also in eastern Mexico and Cuba. There have been introduced populations in Washington and Oregon as well as New Zealand.

The call of the Bobwhite is distinct with a clear whistle “bob-WHITE” or “bob-bob-WHITE”. The syllables are widely spaced and slow rising in pitch a full octave from beginning to end. They also peep, lisp and have a variety of more rapid whistling warning calls.
Like most quail, the Northern Bobwhite is elusive and shy.  They will freeze and crouch down relying on camouflage when threatened. If disturbed they will flush into a low flight to escape danger. Late summer they form family groups and winter may have two dozen or more birds in a single covey. During breeding season in spring they pair up.

When they pair up they generally are monogamous but there is evidence of polygamy. The eggs take 23 or 24 days to hatch and both parents will sit on the eggs for incubation. The chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching and follow their parents. Both parents care for them and lead them to food for 14-16 days until their first flight. Two broods annually with an average of 14 eggs per pair are typical.
Interesting facts:

The Northern Bobwhite is one of the most extensively studied birds in history because of its game bird status.
Three of the species of Bobwhite, the Masked Bobwhite, the Black-headed Bobwhite and the Rufous-bellied Bobwhite were once considered separate species.
Researchers’ radio tracked individuals to follow their activities. Once thought to me monogamous it was found that both males and females had multiple mates in one season.
Fossilized Bobwhites have been found from Florida to Mexico that were estimated to be at least 2.5 million years old.
On record is the oldest Northern Bobwhite who lived to 6 years and 5 months old. They have a short life span but make up for it with prolific breeding seasons. Under optimal conditions a pair can produce 2-3 broods, totaling 25 offspring or more.

The Northern Bobwhite as well as many of its subspecies are very popular as game birds. They have been introduced to many areas for hunting purposes. They are also one of the quail species that are raised domestically.