This past week I started receiving reports of baby quail sightings in the Prescott area.
Some of the reports were communicated via email and were accompanied by fantastic photographs! The occurrence of baby quail each year is an event that is looked forward to with great anticipation by many who feed wild birds in their yard.
Watching freshly hatched baby quail running here and there is loved universally by young and old. Observing their behavior and antics, and witnessing the interactions between parents and offspring can’t help but evoke feelings of endearment.
Mobile within a few hours of hatching, baby quail are led away from the nest site, never to return. Even when they are just a day or two old, they are quick to run after mom and dad and instinctively observe the behavior of their parents to learn how to forage for food on their own.
I personally feel that adult quail are great parents! They are fearless in the face of danger, and courageously protect their young from predators. I love how the male quail sits up high on a fence, tree or rock and acts as a “scout” as he protects his brood from danger.
However, from the moment baby quail hatch out, they are in grave danger. Predators include hawks, ravens, jays, roadrunners and snakes. However, their biggest threat-with which they are least able to cope-is cats. Whether they are “house” cats that are allowed to roam freely outside or feral cats that live off what they catch each day, cats kill thousands of baby quail each year.
While they are capable of running quickly, baby quail are no match for a house cat. For the first few weeks after hatching, baby quail cannot fly and are very vulnerable to cats. The most common strategy for baby quail is to “freeze” in place, using their camouflage as their best defense. If detected, they cannot possibly outrun a cat.
As a homeowner who feeds birds in my yard, I am very upset when neighbors allow their cats to roam freely in the neighborhood. Because of the bird activity in my yard, cats from homeowners in the neighborhood frequent my yard to catch the birds I am feeding.
The American Bird Conservancy has produced a wonderful brochure distributed in Arizona by the Arizona Game and Fish Department titled “Keeping Cats Indoors” with the subtitle, “Good for cats-Good for Arizona’s Wildlife.” I particularly like this quote from the brochure, “For the benefit of cats, wildlife and people, the Arizona Game and Fish Department encourages cat owners to keep their cats indoors.”
If you would like a copy of this free brochure, I invite you to stop by the Prescott store to pick up one. Also, for more information on the importance of keeping cats indoors, I encourage you to visit the American Bird Conservancy website at www.abcbirds.org/cats.
There are also city ordinances prohibiting cats from roaming freely in residential neighborhoods. Out of courtesy to your neighbors who enjoy attracting wild birds to their yards, and in the spirit of cooperation and in observance of city laws, I admonish all cat owners to keep their cat doors.
A quick reminder-free guided bird walks are taking place each week. Some are sponsored by the Highlands Center for Natural History, and others are being led by employees of Jay’s Bird Barn. If you would like to participate, please call the store to sign up.