Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Gambel Quail

By Terry Smith

Gambel Quail, native to the desert Southwest, are popular with many breeders. Gambels which are sometimes referred to by the names Arizona Quail and Desert Quail are often confused with the California Valley Quail. Adult male Gambels are 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 inches in length and appear a little stockier in build than the Valley Quail. They do not have the "scale" pattern seen on the crest of the Valley Quail. The male's head is topped by a black teardrop-like crest which tilts forward. The forehead is black, the crown is rich reddish-brown, and the throat is black with a white border. Both sexes have reddish flanks, and the upper body parts and the tail are grayish-brown. The under body parts are buff. These maybe streaked with brown on the hen.

Some breeders who live in drier areas of the country where the soil is sandy and well-drained raise these quail in long narrow pens on the ground. Here in the Midwest, a breeder will be more successful if he will house a single pair of birds in a long narrow raised pen with a wire floor. The entire pen should have a roof and one end of the pen should be enclosed to give the birds some protection from the elements. The pen should have two doors so that the breeder can feed and water, gather eggs, etc. without exciting the birds which are somewhat flighty or nervous. To prevent predators from getting under the pen, enclose that area with wire.

Both cocks and hens can be aggressive and will usually attack and even kill a bird introduced to an already established pen. Keeping more than one pair of birds in a single pen often results in fighting and reduced fertility.

Gambel Quail are easy to raise in captivity. Mating usually begins in late April and continues to late June or early July. The hen will lay a clutch of 6 to 19 buff to cream colored eggs which are splotched with reddish-tan to russet in a pattern distinctive to each hen. The incubation period is 22 days. A better hatch will be obtained if the humidity in the incubator is a little lower, 83 to 84 degrees F. wet bulb reading.

The chicks do not have to be taught to eat. Since they are small, make sure the crumbles are finely ground but not powdery. Either the feed or the water should be medicated to prevent the diseases common to quail. Keeping feeders, waterers and the pen absolutely clean is an absolute must. After about ten days, the young will develop wing and tail feathers, and they will fully feather out between six and ten weeks.

Gambels are also popular with breeders because of their "talkative" nature. They will talk to all the quail in your pens and will even talk to wild ones. About dusk they really get to talking!

May 1993 The Heartland News