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. The Gambel’s quail is native to the deserts of southwestern USA along the lower Colorado River Valley, the eastern Mojave and western Sonora deserts, the Colorado Plateau, southern Arizona and the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and west Texas, and the northwestern mainland of Mexico. The California Quail’s home territory is more west and north, in places such as California and the Pacific Northwest, with scattered pockets of birds in the Great Basin, Idaho and 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’ve enjoyed their company in places like California’s Imperial Valley and Mojave deserts, in southern Nevada, and whenever I’m in Arizona. Often heard before they are seen, I usually know when they are nearby whenever I hear the bubbly call notes emanating from nearby thickets or the loud Chicago songs. Other times, it’s the shriek of their cries echoing in the distance that give them away.

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