Gambel's Quail

Gambel's Quail

Callipepla gambelii

See them at the Zoo

Quick Facts
Height: 10"-12"
Weight: 6-7 oz
Wild diet: Primarily plant matter and seeds
Zoo Diet: Green leafy vegetables, fruit, vegetables, complete pelleted diet, insects
Distribution: Southwestern United States from southeastern California to western Texas; north to Utah and Colorado and south through northern Mexico
Habitat: Desert thickets and scrublands

The Wild West

Gambel's quails live in the dry regions of the western U.S. and in northern Mexico. They are the most hunted game bird in Arizona, and in parts of California, Nevada, and New Mexico. They are hardy birds, able to survive a harsh terrain. To build a nest they simply scratch out a depression in the dry soil beneath a bush or cactus, and line it with a few sticks, dead leaves, twigs, or grass. They lay 10 to 12 eggs that they incubate for 21 to 24 days. The male and female both take care of the chicks for the first ten days of their life.


Gambel's quails are attractive, plump birds with richly colored plumage in shades of chestnut, gray, cream and black. Their distinguishing feature is a teardrop-shaped plume of black feathers on their heads. Gambel's quails have broad, rounded wings and long legs. They are sexually dimorphic (2 distinct gender forms); males have a black face with white bars surrounding the black area and chestnut coloring on top of the head. Females have an exclusively gray-colored head, with the exception of the plume. Males also have a black patch of feathers on the belly that females lack. Because of similarity in coloration, Gambel's quails are often mistaken with California quails; however, Gambel's quails lack the scaling on the breast and underside.

Status in the Wild

Wild populations of Gambel's quail are healthy, but habitat destruction and hunting may affect populations in the future. Drought greatly affects their reproductive success. They produce fewer, if any, offspring in the absence of adequate rainfall.

Conservation Programs

Listed as of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).

Animal Welfare

Center for Animal Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.

Share the Care

Adopt an Animal today

Support the care of animals through Share the Care. Choose your favorite animal or pick one from our list.

Animal Ambassadors

Meet an Animal Ambassador

From common to unusual mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, get to know the animals that are trained to engage our guests.

Zoo Animals