Bob White Quail
The beloved Bobwhite is the eastern quail species of North America, with a traditional range from as far south as Guatemala and as far north as southern Canada. There may be more than 20 subspecies of this once well-known gamebird of the eastern grass and woodlands. Unfortunately, in many areas, the population of the wild bird is in freefall. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), currently rates the species as “Near Threatened,” which seems to understate the case, considering the rapidity of its disappearance from its former haunts. The cause of the population decline, especially the speed of the decline in the southeastern United States, is debated, but many locals blame the spread of fire ants attacking these ground-nesting birds. Good old-fashioned habitat destruction, feral cats that challenge any ground-nesting bird, and changes in fire management of grass and woodlands probably also play a role.
The Northern Bobwhite is the smallest eastern upland gamebird, with powerful feet and claws that hint at its ability to run. The wild form male is a particularly dapper specimen, with his instantly recognisable face – the throat and “eyebrow” are bright white, contrasting nicely with the dark cap and dark stripe through the eye. His reddish-brown underparts are beautifully marked with black and white, creating a handsome mottled appearance. The female's face is not so contrasty, but if you look close, you'll see buffy areas on the throat and “eyebrow” where the male wears white. Of course, the large number of subspecies, in addition to the many domestic color mutations, means that you have a variety of choices including white, blond, and “tuxedo.”
Average weight: 170 - 200 grams (6 - 7 oz.)
Lifespan:5 - 7 years
Health: While the Bobwhite is considered a reasonably easy bird for beginners, they are at risk for various poultry diseases, especially if bred in large numbers. Diseases that impact Bobwhites include Quail Bronchitis, Ulcerative Enteritis, Quail Pox, and Coccidiosis.
Behaviour / temperament:
The name Bobwhite comes from the male's familiar call, as he seems to be repeating the name, “Bob White! Bob White!” over and over again in season. When planning a birdroom, consider that the same call heard from a distance outdoors is much more evocative than when the bird is going off at all hours indoors. That said, few people object to the call, which is heard all too seldom these days in many areas.
The Bobwhite naturally lives in coveys of around 5 to 30 birds, and they are not as destructive toward others of their kind a the Old World quails. However, in spring, males may become somewhat testy, so keep an eye on things, and make sure you have offered enough space and cover to give a chased bird plenty of room to get away from an aggressor.
How you house your Bobwhites depends on the purpose of your Bobwhites. Birds raised for meat, eggs, or color mutations can certainly be housed in cages in a well-ventilated birdroom. Egg producers can control the light to create artificially long days, which causes the Bobwhite female to lay many more eggs than she would normally do.
They may not be as irascible toward each other as the Old World quail, but you should still provide them with a reasonable amount of space, and do not attempt to house multiple males together in small cages. Many Bobwhites today are being raised for reintroduction or for hunting programs. These birds will need special pens, with plenty of space and cover, to allow them to acclimate to the weather and to develop their powers of flight. Quail are tasty birds, so they also need to be protected from a large number of predators, from snakes to various hawks and eagles. It is strongly recommended that you work with a more advanced hobbyist or even a professional breeder to make sure that you are providing a good habitat for your birds. If you free range your birds, learn how from an expert, or else you may just be putting out a food table for your local raptors.
Diet:Bobwhites are remarkably easy to feed as long as you make sure that these ground-feeding birds have easy access to food and waterers on the floor. The backbone of the diet is usually a non-medicated commercial gamebird starter, which the birds can eat their entire lives, not just as babies. Don't ever consider feeding them on starter crumbles meant for chickens, since the balance of medications, calcium, and protein in chicken feed is all wrong for these quail. However, this species has also been successfully maintained on unmedicated turkey crumbles, if for some reason you don't have the gamebird starter. You can easily supplement the diet with a chopped salad of apples, greens, carrot, broccoli florets, and dry and sprouted seed such as millet or parakeet mix. You may offer them some tiny mealworms or other small insects as well. They should have access to a grit that includes crushed oyster shell or another form of calcium.