Quail in a field

Bobwhite Quail Biology

The Bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) is the most wide-spread of the quail species in North America. Historically, their range spreads as far north as the great lakes and as far south as the Caribbean. In many states in the U.S. the quail population is drastically declining due to habitat loss. The bobwhite, along with turkeys and grouse, is a gallinaceous species meaning it spends the majority of its life on the ground. It is a small, round game bird that is quick to flush from cover to avoid predators.  

Bobwhites are a social bird forming groups in the fall called coveys. These coveys will stay together until the upcoming breeding season, when the males will go off to find mates. Bobwhite hens can have up to 2 clutches a year and each clutch will have 12-16 eggs. Both parents will care for the young until their first flight which occurs 14-16 days after hatching. Quail chicks, about the size of a bumblebee when hatched, are dependent on insects and good habitat to survive until the fall. Once the insects disappear due to the colder weather, the birds begin to feed on seeds. They will feed on seeds, nuts, and fruits until the following spring when the insects begin to emerge again.

Male Bobwhite Quail (Cock):

  • Coloration: 
    • Brown back
    • White and black head
    • White and black scalloped breast
  • Calls:
    • Breeding (made by the male)
    • "bob-white" (made by both male and female)

Female Bobwhite Quail (Hen):

  • Coloration:
    • Brown back
    • Brown and gold head
    • White, black and brown scalloped breast
  • Calls:
    • Covey (made by both male and female)
    • "ka-loi-hee"


Source:  Stoddard, Herbert L.  The Bobwhite Quail; Its habits, preservation and Increase.  Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1946