Each week, as I spend time talking to customers at the Bird Barn, I get updated on what species are being seen in backyards and at feeders. Over the last week, I have received numerous reports of black-headed grosbeaks showing up. I have also had reports of green-tailed towhees, so be on the lookout!
In addition to migratory bird sightings, I have also received a handful of baby quail sightings this past week—which is about two weeks earlier than normal. When baby quail hatch, their eyes are open. Within a few hours, they are capable of following their parents and feeding themselves. However, it takes a few weeks before they can fly to avoid predation.
The first two weeks of a baby quail’s life is fraught with danger, ranging from birdbaths, ponds and swimming pools, to house cats, dogs, bobcats, roadrunners, hawks, scrub-jays and ravens—just to name a few! It is estimated that the mortality rate for baby quail is about 85 percent. In other words, very few babies make it to adulthood.
The best defense baby quails have to avoid predators is to freeze in place at the first sign of danger. Baby quail know instinctively to be perfectly still when their parents emit a call of danger. It is as if they just disappear into the surrounding habitat because they are so well camouflaged.
You might be wondering what you can do to increase the baby quail survival rate. One suggestion is make sure any ground-level birdbaths are less than one inch in depth. Every year we get reports from individuals who discover lifeless baby quail in their birdbaths. Fix this potential deathtrap by either putting the water a few feet off the ground or by keeping the water very shallow.
Another suggestion is to place your seed feeders in close proximity to dense shrubs and bushes. Quail are especially vulnerable when they are out in the open. By placing your feeders close to vegetation, they can quickly dart for cover when there is imminent danger.
If you have a problem with window strikes, move your feeders further away from sliding glass doors and large windowpanes, which can prove fatal for adult quail if they fly into a window. Just a few days ago, I received a text with a picture of an adult female that had crashed into someone’s window. Based on the time of year, it is likely that the female had an active nest. Her untimely death means the nest will likely fail. If you need window decals to help prevent bird collisions, please come by the store and we can help.
I typically advocate letting nature run its course, but there are times when you can lend a helping hand if you see baby quail in distress. For example, sometimes parents will lead their babies across a road, and then the babies can’t get up the curb. Helping reunite parents and babies has a greater benefit than any stress you may cause the parents or babies by getting involved.
My final suggestion is to not allow house cats to roam freely outside. I personally like cats, but they can take a heavy toll on baby birds this time of year—especially ground-dwelling birds that can’t fly.
A quick reminder—for a limited time, there are still some tickets available for the Alta Vista Garden Club tour. The self-guided tour takes place on Saturday, June 18, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available at Jay’s Bird Barn, or online at altavistagardenclub.org.
Until next week, Happy Birding!