It’s not easy being a parent. My house is on a large piece of land, over an acre, and I generally let it grow up with native plants that are suited to the desert climate. This year I have four, maybe five, covies of Gambel’s quail patrolling the yard. It has been a successful year and each set of parents have twelve or fifteen (or more) chicks so I have somewhere around sixty baby quail in the yard. This is in addition to the dozen or more desert cottontail rabbits.
Every day there are little dramas played out in the yard. I’ve taken to throwing seed out because there are so many chicks. The rabbits, who spend their day lounging in the shade under my pick-up truck, have acquired a taste for the birdseed so the venture out and then there are a few confrontations with mom and dad quail — all peaceful but this is BIRDseed, after all.
There are so many chicks to keep track of that sometimes the parents lose count. Somebody goes missing and one of the parents, a male in this instance, is tasked with finding the little wanderer. They like to do this from an elevated place…it’s easier to see junior from above. The chicks know to hide in tall grass if they are separated so the parent makes a sound to attract the chick’s attention. They do this same low-key chatter when they lead the covey out to feed so it is a common and understood sound for the chick. It might take a few minutes but eventually the errant son or daughter is brought home.
I have a walled courtyard in the front of my house with a large goldfish pond that serves as the local watering hole for my local wildlife. The quail families will parade in through the gate and spread out to forage. A couple days ago one chick was missed in the headcount as they were going back out the gate. Two chicks ran out together and mom miscounted. She was sure there was one missing. She stayed and searched for several minutes until she was satisfied, or maybe dad called to her, and then ran to catch up. Parenthood is hard enough with one or two but with twelve or fifteen all the same age it must be exhausting.