The Bobwhite Quail, Northern Bobwhite, or Virginia Quail (Colinus virginianus), is a ground-dwelling bird native to North America.
The Bobwhite Quail is a member of the group of species known as New World quail. This quail primarily inhabits areas of early growth dominated by various species of pine, hardwood, woody, and herbaceous growth. However, quail habitat varies greatly throughout its range which extends from Mexico east to Florida and north into the Upper Midwest and Northeast.
Bobwhites are distinguished by a black cap and black stripe behind the eye along the head. The area in between is white on males and yellow-brown on females. The body is brown, speckled in places with black or white on both sexes, and average weight is five to six ounces.
During the non-breeding season (October-April), these birds form groups of 5 to 30 birds known as “coveys”. Once the breeding season begins these coveys dissolve and a social pair may mate and female fertilization begins. Approximately 1 egg per day is laid, and they hatch after 23 days. The eggs white in color and are more pointed than normal chicken eggs.
Both males and females can incubate nests, with most nests predominantly incubated by females. If the first clutch of eggs is unsuccessful, a breeding pair will attempt to lay, incubate, and hatch additional clutches. Once hatched, chicks leave the nest approximately 24 hours following afterward. The breeding season continues until mid-October, and females can potentially lay, incubate, and hatch up to 3 clutches.
The Bobwhite Quail is a popular and economically important game bird, particularly in the US Southern States. Habitat degradation threatens wild populations, so it is propagated in captivity in large numbers for release on hunting preserves or natural areas as required by US wildlife agencies. It is also found in many aviaries and is on display in some zoos. In the southern U.S., pearl millet has been identified as a preferred food source for Bobwhite Quail.