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Scaled Quail

Callipepla squamata

Length: 10 inches Wingspan: 14 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Obvious scaly pattern on underparts and neck, white tuft on head, grayish-tan overall, generally plain face

Scaled Quail - Callipepla squamataScaled Quail are a fairly common bird of dry grasslands in teh southern Great Plains and southwestern U.S.  They are closely related to a pair of other western quail species, the Gambel's Quail and California Quail, but while those two species are very similar in appearance, the scaled quail is distinct in appearance, with an obvious, large scaly pattern to the plumage on the underparts and neck.  They have a tuft of feathers on the head that is white along the upper edges, leading to an informal name of "cotton-top quail" in many locations.  Like other quail species, they often remain hidden and inconspicuous, but in the spring, males can often be seen on fence posts or other higher perches as they call.

Habitat: Scaled Quail are most often found in areas of grasslands with scattered weeds and shrubs  They are more often found in open grassland areas with few shrubs than the other closely related Callipepla quail (Gambel's Quail, California Quail).  

Diet: Feeds heavily on seeds, especially the seeds of annual and perennial weeds.  They also eat many insects, especially during the spring and summer months.  Other food items include berries, leaves, buds, and flowers.

Behavior:  Gregarious, foraging and moving in small coveys of birds in most seasons. Early in the breeding season, they will forage more as breeding pairs or small family units.  . 

Nesting: Nests are constructed on the ground in a shallow depression.  It is usually placed at the base of a shrub or other plant that provides cover, and made of grasses and leaves. Females do the majority of the incubation of eggs, but both parents will tend to the young.

Song: Males have a high shrieking call, as well as a slow two-syllable clucking.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout their range.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Scaled Quail sightings

Feeders: Scaled Quail will visit ground feeders for seed, or scattered seeds.

Similar Species: While similar in size and structure to other quail species, they are generally unique in appearance and readily recognizable with a decent view.

Conservation Status: The IUCN ranks Scaled Quail as a species of "Least Concern". The species is still widespread and common, although there are indications of sharp declines in the last several decades.  They are most vulnerable to overgrazing, and may reproduce very poorly in areas of intensive livestock management.

Further Information: 1) Cornell's All About Birds - Scaled Quail

2) USGS Bird InfoCenter - Scaled Quail

3) Texas Parks and Wildlife - Scaled Quail in Texas

Photo Information: June 12th, 2011 - Laredo, Texas - Photo taken by Vince Smith - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Scaled Quail photos.


Click on the map below for a higher resolution view
Scaled Quail - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Scaled Quail Photos (Coming Soon!!!)