California quail

California quail at Aurancia Park.

If you have ever heard a bird making a high-pitched short whistle in the brush in our local parks, like Aurantia Park in Highland, chances are you are hearing our state bird calling to one another. The California quail is the state of bird for the Golden State.

Having adapted to suburban development, the quail forage and carry on in our parks and ranch areas, walking on the ground looking for food, with their heads jutting to the front.

However, they will flush, quickly fly away in a burst of speed, when they feel a sense of danger. When they do, their quick flight can startle anyone nearby.

The California quail are typically found in oak woodlands, foothills and chaparral, thick brush.

They are easily identifiable by their signature dark comma-shaped plume, feather, on the top of their heads.

The male California quail have more pronounced colors. They have a gray arch that rests over golden-colored, scaled feathers in the front. The males also have a black mask outlined in white.

The females’ colors are more muted than the males. This allows them to hide in the foliage with their young if a predator is in the area.

The California quail is an adaptable bird. You might see them in your backyard delighting on the fallen seed from bird feeders in the morning or the evening.

If you are out hiking, you might see them in the late afternoon as well.

In the wild, the quail scratch along the surface of the soil or dead leaves, as they look for food, like broken seeds or nuts and other grains from plants.

Quail also eat insects, leaves and berries.

A group of quail is called a covey.

The male usually stands as a lookout, while the rest of the covey feed.

If he senses anything, he quickly calls and the quail seek shelter. They will either run into a thicket or they will flush with lightning speed for a short distance to evade danger.

So, the next time you hike in the nature areas of Highland or Wildwood Canyon Park in Yucaipa, keep an ear out for a sharp-toned, short whistle in the brush, it may very well be a California quail.

You might even get the chance to see them walk across the trail.

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