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A photo of a Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata)
Scaled Quail

Scaled Quail

Callipepla squamata

The scaled quail, known also as the blue quail or cottontop, is a bluish-gray bird adorned with a distinctive white crest that resembles a tuft of cotton. Its breast and back feathers exhibit a unique scaly appearance, which is the origin of its common name.

Identification Tips

To identify the scaled quail, look for its scaly markings and the prominent white crest on its head. The bird's overall coloration is a bluish-gray, which blends seamlessly with its arid surroundings.


Scaled quail are found in arid regions, where they frequent open valleys, plains, foothills, and canyons with a mix of bare ground, low herbaceous growth, and scattered brushy cover.


This species ranges from the Southwestern United States to Central Mexico, with established populations in south-central Arizona, northern New Mexico, east-central Colorado, and southwestern Kansas, extending south through western Oklahoma and western and central Texas into Mexico.


When disturbed, scaled quail show a preference for running rather than taking flight. They are fairly sedentary, with winter home ranges of coveys varying from 24 to 84 acres, and they maintain stable territories from September to November.


The scaled quail's nest is a grass-lined hollow that typically contains 9–16 speckled eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 21 to 23 days. Double-brooding is common, with the male often rearing the first brood while the female begins a second clutch.

Diet and Feeding

Scaled quail are opportunistic feeders, with a diet consisting primarily of seeds, including those of mesquite and snakeweed. They also consume leaves, fruits, and insects, with green vegetation and insects being important sources of moisture during summer.

Conservation status

The scaled quail is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that it is widespread and common throughout its range.

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Scaled Quail Fun Facts

Did you know?
Scaled Quails sleep together in a circle, all facing outwards, for protection.

Scaled Quails on Birda


More New World Quail

A photo of a California Quail (Callipepla californica) , male

California Quail

Callipepla californica
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