Gambel’s Quail

Callipepla gambelii
Range Map

The Gambel’s Quail is easily confused with California Quail, because of similar plumage, but there is little overlap to their ranges. Gambel’s quail are native to the deserts of southwestern USA. We can find them along the lower Colorado River Valley, the eastern Mojave and the western Sonora deserts. But their range also includes the Colorado Plateau, south through southern Arizona. In the Rio Grande Valley, they can live from New Mexico to west Texas, and the northwestern mainland of Mexico. Whereas, the California Quail’s home territory is more west and north. They are found in places such as California and the Pacific Northwest, with scattered pockets of birds in the Great Basin, Idaho and western Montana.

Taxonomists call out five subspecies of Gambel’s Quail:

  • C. g. gambelii lives in eastern California, southern Nevada, and southern Utah, south to northeastern Baja California and northern Sonora (Mexico).
  • C. g. ignoscens lives in southern New Mexico and western Texas.
  • C. g. pembertoni lives on Tiburon Island, in the Gulf of California (Mexico).
  • C. g. fulvipectus lives in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico into northwestern Mexico.
  • C. g. stephensi lives in northwestern Mexico, in southern Sonora.

I have enjoyed the company of Gambel’s Quail in places like California’s Imperial Valley and Mojave deserts. In southern Nevada, and whenever I’m in Arizona, I find them wandering the arid desert scrublands. We often hear them before we see them. I usually know when they are nearby whenever I hear the bubbly call notes or their loud Chicago songs emanating from nearby thickets. Other times, it is their shrieking cries echoing in the distance that gives them away.

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