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cline01 (1K)

Northern Bobwhite
(Colinus virginianus)

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cline01 (1K)

Additional Information

Breeding Season: Mid April through summer

Breeding Age:

Clutch Size: 12 to 16

Incubation Period:: 21 days

Description - Male: Males of the northern races have a white throat and eye-line, with a dark crown and a black line that seperates the white on the throat to the eye-line. The lower breast is mottled white & dark brown; sides have light brown streaks and the back and rest of the body mottled brown overall; tail gray. The overall rufous plumage has gray mottling on the wings, white scalloped stripes on the flanks, and black scallops on the whitish underparts.

Description - Female: The hens are similar, but her throat and eye-line is buff and her overall color is somewhat lighter. Both sexes have pale legs and feet.

Status in Captivity: Common

Misc Notes: Bobwhites present no problems in captive care, and can be produced easily in modest surroundings or large aviaries. It is recommended that birds housed on the ground be wormed regularly and ensure the aviary is well drained. Many producers house their birds in tiny breeding batteries, this is discouraged and I recommend to keep them aviaries with natural surroundings.

You will probably have to use artificial incubation with this species, as many captive hens are mass producers of eggs and are highly unlikely to go broody in a cage setting unless plenty of cover is available. Bobwhites are also induced into laying earlier than normal using artificial light. Some larger farms also use the lights to have hens produce eggs year round.

Chicks are easy to raise in the brooder. They require a high protein diet and lots of room, as they are very active and prone to picking if overcrowded. The chicks are kept in a brooder setting for about six weeks, then they are moved to covered, outdoor enclosure.

As mentioned, Bobwhites are easy to keep and raise. They are often one of the first species of quail for the beginning quail keeper and many long-time breeders keep them around for the male's call.

During the Winter, birds that are not kept indoors such as a barn should be grouped together so they can form natural coveys for warmth.

Bobwhite should be fed a good quality game bird ration of at least 16% protein during the non-breeding season to 20% during the laying period. I also supplement their diet with various grains, greens and mealworms.

There have been a number of mutations developed in captivity. Some of the popular colors include the Mexican Speckled, the Tennessee Red, Smoke, White and Silver Bobwhites. There are also strains developed for their large size, such as the Wisconsin Jumbo and the Indiana Giant.

cline01 (1K)
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Bibliography and Further Reading

  • Brown, D. 1995. A Guide to Pigeons, Doves & Quail, Their Management, Care & Breeding. ABK Publications, South Tweed Heads, Australia.
  • Hayes, LB. 1995. Upland Game Birds: Their Breeding and Care. Leland Hayes, Valley Center, CA.
  • Johnsgard, P.A. 1988. The Quails, Partridges, and Francolins of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  • Madge, S., McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges, and Grouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

cline01 (1K)

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