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A photo of a Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii), male
Gambel's Quail, Male

Gambel's Quail

Callipepla gambelii

The Gambel's quail, known scientifically as Callipepla gambelii, is a small, ground-dwelling bird that is part of the New World quail family. It is easily recognized by its distinctive top knot and the scaly appearance of its plumage on the underside. The males are particularly striking with their copper feathers atop their heads, black faces, and white stripes above their eyes. These birds average 11 inches in length and possess a wingspan ranging from 14 to 16 inches. Their wings are relatively short and rounded, and they have long, featherless legs.

Identification Tips

When observing Gambel's quail, look for the bluish-gray plumage that covers much of their body. The male's copper top knot, black face, and white eye stripes are key distinguishing features. In flight, they may be identified by their rapid wingbeats followed by a glide to the ground.


Gambel's quail are inhabitants of desert regions, where they are well-adapted to the arid conditions.


This species can be found across the Southwestern United States and into Mexico, with their range extending through Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Sonora. They are also present in New Mexico-border Chihuahua, the Colorado River region of Baja California, and have been introduced to San Clemente Island.


Gambel's quail are primarily terrestrial and are adept at swiftly navigating through brush and undergrowth. They are non-migratory and are more often seen walking than in flight. Flights are typically short and characterized by a burst of rapid wingbeats. These birds form coveys in the non-breeding season, and during the breeding season, pairs become territorial. The chicks are more insectivorous than adults, shifting to a plant-based diet as they grow.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of Gambel's quail are distinctive and can be heard throughout their range, particularly during the breeding season.


Gambel's quail are monogamous birds that do not typically breed in colonies. The female lays 10-12 eggs in a simple scrape, often concealed by vegetation. Incubation, lasting 21-23 days, is mainly the female's responsibility, with the male rarely participating. The precocial chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching to follow their parents.

Similar Species

The California quail is similar in appearance but can be differentiated by its more scaly plumage and the absence of the black patch on the lower breast seen in male Gambel's quail.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of Gambel's quail is primarily composed of plant matter and seeds. As chicks, they consume more insects, gradually incorporating more vegetation as they mature.

Conservation status

The Gambel's quail is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of population decline.

Gambel's Quail Sounds

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Gambel's Quail Fun Facts

Did you know?
Gambel's Quail is named after William Gambel, a naturalist who explored the USA.

Gambel's Quails on Birda


More New World Quail

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

California Quail

Callipepla californica
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