occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: RESIDENT: south-central Arizona, northern New Mexico, east-central Colorado, and southwestern Kansas south through western Oklahoma, western Texas, and interior Mexico to northeastern Jalisco, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Hidalgo and western Tamaulipas. Introduced and established in central Washington and eastern Nevada (AOU 1983, Schemnitz 1994).
east-central Colorado, and southwestern Kansas south through western
Oklahoma and western and central Texas into Mexico to northeastern
Jalisco, Guanajuato, Queretaru, Hidalgo, and western Tamaulipas. It has
been introduced to Hawaii, central Washington, eastern Nevada, and
Nebraska, but is only considered established in central Washington and
eastern Nevada [1,25].
Distribution of subspecies is as follows:
Callipepla squamata ssp. castanogastris occurs from southern Texas south
through Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and eastern Coahuila, Mexico.
C. s. hargravei is found in western Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas,
southeastern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and northwestern Texas.
C. s. pallida occurs from southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and
western Texas south to northern Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.
C. s. squamata occurs in Mexico from northern Sonora and Tamaulipas
south to the Valley of Mexico .
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
7 Lower Basin and Range
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
Occurrence in North America
Length: 25 cm
Weight: 191 grams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Breeding and non-breeding habitats are similar (Schemnitz 1994). In general, preferred habitat is arid-semiarid, mixed shrub-grassland. Common shrubs of preferred habitat include acacia (ACACIA spp.), sand sagebrush (ARTEMISIA FILIFOLIA), four-winged saltbush (ATRIPLEX CANESCENS), cacti (OPUNTIA spp.), honey mesquite (PROSOPIS GLANDULOSA), sumacs (RHUS AROMATICA, R. MICROPHYLLA, R. TRILOBATA), yucca (YUCCA spp.), and snakeweed (XANTHOCEPHALUM SAROTHRAE). In New Mexico, sightings are highest in mixed shrub-grassland, intermediate in shrub-dominated habitats, and lowest in grasslands (Saiwana et al. 1998). Most (54 percent) sightings in Oklahoma are associated with shrubs, 29 percent with man-made cover, and 16 percent in grassland or cropland (Schemnitz 1961). In southern Arizona, 89 percent of sightings occur in mesquite grassland, mixed shrubland, and shrub-dominated washes (Medina 1988).
In areas of sympatry, northern bobwhite (COLINUS VIRGINIANUS) and scaled quail tend to select different habitats. In Oklahoma, northern bobwhite were most frequently observed in riparian habitats, whereas scaled quail were observed in upland habitats (Schemnitz 1964). During the breeding season in Texas, scaled quail selected denser, shorter shrub habitat than northern bobwhite (Reid et al. 1979, Reid et al. 1993). Unlike northern bobwhite, which selects dense herbaceous cover, scaled quail in south Texas prefers sparsely vegetated areas with a shrub overstory with a relatively high percentage of bare ground (Wilson and Crawford 1987). Roosts on the ground beneath shrub cover (Schemnitz 1994).
Nests on the ground in a depression lined with dry grasses (Terres 1991). In Oklahoma, 66 percent of 50 nests were found amid dead Russian-thistle (SALSOLA PESTIFER), machinery and junk, mixed forbs, and soapweed (YUCCA GLAUCA; Schemnitz 1961). In New Mexico, 66 percent of 14 nests were located in dead Russian-thistle, mixed forbs, soapweed, johnson grass (SORGHUM HALEPENSE) and overhanging rocks (Russell 1932, cited in Schemnitz 1961). A single nest in Colorado was found amid Russian-thistle (Long 1941, cited in Schemnitz 1961).
Feeding Cover: Scaled quail use grass clumps and shrubs for cover while
feeding. In one study they were frequently seen crossing 82 to 165 feet
(25-50 m) of bare ground. When disturbed, scaled quail hid in snakeweed
(Gutierrezia spp.) or in grass clumps . In June and July foraging
occurs on open grasslands which are not used at other times .
Loafing Cover: Scaled quail coveys occupy loafing or resting cover
after early morning feeding periods. Scaled quail occupy desert
grassland or desert scrub with a minimum of one loafing covert per
approximately 70 acres (28 ha) [4,6,13]. In northwestern Texas, loafing
coverts were characterized by: (1) overhead woody cover, (2) lateral
screening cover, (3) a central area with bare soil, and (4) one or more
paths through the lateral cover. Covert heights ranged from 1.6 to 5.9
feet (0.5-1.8 m) and 2.6 to 6.9 feet (0.8-2.1 m) in diameter. Cholla
formed all or part of the overhead cover of 85 percent of coverts, even
though they were dominant at only 12 percent of the study locations. In
areas where scaled quail occur without cholla, woody species such as
wolfberry (Lycium spp.) and mesquite are important for overhead cover
. In Oklahoma pinyon-juniper habitats, scaled quail use the shade
of tree cholla (Opuntia imbricata) and human-made structures . In
Arizona, scaled quail occupied wolfberry and mesquite 1.7 to 5 feet
(0.5-1.5 m) tall for loafing cover. This overhead cover provides midday
shade, but is open at the base to allow easy escape from predators .
In Oklahoma, winter home ranges always contained skunkbush sumac, tree
cholla, or human-made structures providing overhead cover .
Night-roosting Cover: Scaled quail roosts were observed in yucca (Yucca
angustifolia), tree cholla, and true mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus
montanus)-yucca-fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) vegetation types. The
height of vegetation used for night roosts was less than 1.6 feet (0.5
Nesting Cover: In March or April winter coveys spread out into areas
with less cover. This use of areas with less cover coincides with a
seasonal decrease in the number of raptors in the same area .
Scaled quail nests are constructed under tufts of grasses, and are
sheltered by sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), creosotebush (Larrea
tridentata), mesquite, catclaw acacia (Acacia greggii), cactus, or yucca
; under dead Russian-thistle (Salsola kali), mixed forbs, or
soapweed yucca; or sheltered in old machinery or other human-made debris
. In Oklahoma, 66 percent of nests were in one of four situations:
(1) dead Russian-thistle, (2) machinery and junk, (3) mixed forbs, and
(4) soapweed yucca . In New Mexico, ordination of breeding birds
and vegetative microhabitats indicated that scaled quail were associated
with increased levels of patchiness and increased cover of mesquite and
Scaled quail inhabit dry, open valleys, plains, foothills, rocky slopes,
draws, gullies, and canyons that have a mixture of bare ground, low
herbaceous growth, and scattered brushy cover [6,7]. Good scaled quail
habitat is characterized by low-growing grasses with forbs and shrubs.
Overall ground cover is between 10 and 50 percent. Trees and shrubs
should be less than 6.6 feet (2 m) tall. Scaled quail avoid the dense
growth associated with streamsides. Transmitter-fitted scaled quail had
individual home range sizes of 52 and 60 acres (21 and 24 ha) .
An absolute requirement by scaled quail for a source of open water has
not been established; there is some debate in the literature whether
there is such a requirement [15,24]. Scaled quail have been reported as
inhabiting an area 7 or 8 miles (11.2-12.8 km) from the nearest water in
Arizona. In New Mexico, it was not unusual to find scaled quail 10 to 15
miles (16-24 km) from water . Wallmo  observed winter coveys 3
and 7 miles (1.8 and 11.2 km) from water in Big Bend National Park in
In Arizona, scaled quail summer habitat is seldom within 660 feet (200
m) of water. Scaled quail were observed drinking at stock tanks from
April to June (which was a dry period during the course of the study)
every 2 to 3 days . In Oklahoma, scaled quail often migrate to
farms and ranches in winter and are thus closer to a source of water in
winter than in summer . DeGraaf and others  reported that in
winter, scaled quail are usually found within 1.25 miles (2 km) of a
source of water.
Associated Plant Communities
According to Ligon , the distribution of scaled quail is largely
coextensive with mesquite (Prosopis spp.), condalia (Condalia spp.), and
cholla (Opuntia spp.).
In Oklahoma, scaled quail occur in sand sagebrush (Artemisia
filifolia)-grassland, pinyon-juniper (Pinus spp.-Juniperus spp.), and
shortgrass High Plains [1,6,24]. Sand sagebrush-grasslands include
sand sagebrush, soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), skunkbush sumac (Rhus
trilobata), and sand plum (Prunus watsonii) . Scaled quail in
Oklahoma inhabit rough or rolling land, especially where sagebrush
(Artemisia spp.), mesquite, cactus (Opuntia spp. and others), yucca
(Yucca spp.), juniper, sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii), and rocks
furnish cover .
In Colorado, scaled quail occupy sand sagebrush and/or yucca stands on
sandy soils . The cover types used by scaled quail in Colorado are,
in descending order, sand sagebrush-grassland, pinyon-juniper, dense
cholla-grassland, dryland farmland, irrigated farmland, and greasewood
(Sarcobatus spp.)-saltbush (Atriplex spp.) washes. Scaled quail made
little or no use of sparse cholla-grassland, riparian areas, reseeded
grasslands, or shortgrass prairie disclimax .
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K027 Mesquite bosque
K040 Saltbush - greasewood
K053 Grama - galleta steppe
K054 Grama - tobosa prairie
K057 Galleta - three-awn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite - acacia savanna
K087 Mesquite - oak savanna
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES40 Desert grasslands
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
239 Pinyon - juniper
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Non-migratory (Schemnitz 1994).
Comments: Foods include seeds of shrubs, forbs and grasses, cultivated grains, insects, and herbaceous leaves. Forage primarily from dawn to approximately 10:00 hours, then from about 16:00 hours until dark (Schemnitz 1961). The contents of 1204 crops collected during early winter in Oklahoma were 93 percent plant material and 7 percent insects. Seeds of four species, including grain sorghum, comprised 59 percent of the diet (Schemnitz 1961). Fall-winter contents of 135 crops collected in Oklahoma were 89.5 percent seeds, 9 percent leaves and 1 percent insects (Rollins 1981). Seeds of forbs and shrubs comprised 57 percent of the diet year-round in a study of 162 crops collected in Arizona (Medina 1988). The contents of 227 fall-winter crops collected in New Mexico was 81 percent seeds, 8 percent leaves and stems, and 6.5 percent insects (Campbell et al. 1973). The fall-winter diet of 593 birds taken by hunters in southwestern New Mexico was comprised principally of seeds of snakeweed (XANTHOCEPHALUM SAROTHRAE; 15 percent) and Russian thistle (SALSOLA PESTIFER; 10 percent), grain sorghum (8 percent), green vegetation (7 percent), and insect (6 percent; Schemnitz et al. 1998a). Seeds (42 percent), green herbage (26 percent), and insects (32.5 percent) comprised the year-round diet determined by analysis of 324 droppings in Texas (Ault and Stormer 1983). The contents of 32 winter crops collected in Southwestern Texas contained 93 percent seeds and 7 percent leaves (Lehmann and Ward 1941). In Arizona, annual seed consumption varied from 53.5 percent in summer to 87.5 percent in fall, insect consumption from 2 percent in winter to 18 percent in summer, and green herbage consumption from 3.5 percent in fall to 30 percent in winter (Medina 1988). In Texas, annual seed consumption varied from 30.5 percent in one winter to 60 percent in another winter, insect consumption from 13 percent in winter to 57 percent in summer, and green herbage consumption from 9 percent in summer to 43 percent in spring (Ault and Stormer 1983). In New Mexico, the summer diet is comprised of 54 percent seeds, 36.5 percent insects, and 9.6 percent green vegetation, whereas in winter the diet is 74 percent seeds, 15 percent green vegetation, and 11 percent insects. (Davis et al. 1975). In Oklahoma, sympatric northern bobwhite quail and scaled quail have a high degree of dietary overlap (Rollins 1981). In south Texas, however, northern bobwhites consume a greater percentage of animal matter and grass seeds, and scaled quail eat a higher percentage of woody plant seeds and fleshy fruits (Wilson and Crawford 1987).
Scaled quail are opportunistic eaters . Seeds are consumed
year-round. Large seeds (such as those of mesquite and snakeweed) are
important in scaled quail diets . Other seeds include those of
elbowbush (Adelia angustifolia), catclaw acacia , mesquite, hackberry
(Celtis spp.), Russian-thistle, rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus),
and sunflowers, ragweeds (Ambrosia spp.), and other Asteraceous plants
[6,30]. Scaled quail consume more grass seeds than do other quail
species . Other dietary components include leaves, fruits, and
insects. Summer diets are high in green vegetation and insects, which
are also important sources of moisture [11,19].
In Oklahoma, small groups of scaled quail feed among soapweed yucca and
in soapweed yucca-sand sagebrush ranges, weed patches, and grain
stubble. Also in Oklahoma, early winter foods apparently eaten when
other foods are not available included snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia
marginata), sand paspalum (Paspalum stramineum), field sandbur (Cenchrus
pauciflorus), purslane (Portulacca spp.), skunkbush sumac, Fendler
spurge (Euphorbia fendleri), and leaf bugs. Jimsonweed (Datura
stramonium) and juniper berries were always avoided . Winter foods
of the scaled quail in Oklahoma include Russian-thistle and sunflower
(Helianthus spp.) seeds .
In northwestern Texas, selection of foods by scaled quail was dependent
on foraging techniques, availability, and seed size. Small seeds were
selected when they were still on the plant and could be easily stripped,
but were not eaten once thay had fallen, presumably because they were
too small and/or too hard to find. Broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia
sarothrae) was a staple in winter diets; it was not highly selected but
was consumed in proportion to its availability (and lack of availability
of choice items) . Generally, in Texas grass seeds (mainly tall
dropseed [Sporobolus asper] and rough tridens [Tridens muticus]) were
major constituents of scaled quail diets. This was attributed to a
precipitation pattern that resulted in a relatively higher amount of
grass seed available, and a lower amount of available forbs. In the
same study green vegetation formed a higher proportion of the diet than
reported for other areas .
In southwestern Texas, chestnut-bellied scaled quail consumed woody
plant seeds and green vegetation. The seeds of brush species comprised
68 percent of the contents of 32 scaled quail crops. Green food,
chiefly wild carrot (Daucus carota) and clover (Trifolium spp.) made up
7.17 percent. Elbowbush was the single most important source, followed
by Roemer acacia (Acacia roemeriana), desert-yaupon (Schaefferia
cuneifolia), and spiny hackberry (Celtis pallida) .
In southeastern New Mexico, staples (comprising at least 5% of scaled
quail diet in both summer and winter) were mesquite and croton (Croton
spp.) seeds, green vegetation, and snout beetles. Nonpreferred foods
eaten in winter and available but not consumed in summer included broom
snakeweed (the main winter food), crown-beard (Verbesina encelioides),
cycloloma (Cycloloma atriplicifolium), and lace bugs. Mesquite seeds
and broom snakeweed seeds together made up 75 percent of the winter diet
. Grasshoppers were a summer staple. Insect galls, cicadas, scarab
beetles, spurge (Euphorbia spp.), plains bristlegrass (Setaria
macrostachya) seeds, and white ratany (Krameria grayi) were consumed in
a less pronounced seasonal pattern . Another study reported
substantial amounts of prairie sunflower seeds (Helianthus petiolaris)
and pigweed (Amaranthus spp.) seeds in the diet of scaled quail .
Scaled quail feed in alfalfa (Medicago spp.) fields .
reptiles. Most scaled quail kills are made by avian predators
including northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), red-tailed hawk (Buteo
jamaicensis), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), prairie falcon (Falco
mexicanus), and great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) . In New
Mexico, predators on scaled quail include hawks, owls, coyote (Canis
latrans), and snakes . In Colorado, potential predators of scaled
quail include coyote, gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), red fox
(Vulpes vulpes), kit fox (V. velox), bobcat (Lynx rufus), northern
harrier, rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus), prairie falcon, peregrine
falcon (Falco peregrinus), American kestrel, golden eagle (Aquila
chrysaetos), and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) .
Scaled quail are popular gamebirds .
Population size fluctuates dramatically, most likely in response to variations in reproductive success (Schemnitz 1994). Spring-summer rainfall has been implicated in reproductive variance in New Mexico and west Texas, with lower rainfall resulting in reduced breeding success (Campbell 1968, Campbell et al. 1973, Wallmo and Uzzell 1958). In east Texas, variations in abundance correlated with winter rainfall (Giuliano and Lutz 1993). New Mexico population density estimates ranged from 1 per 3.3-50 hectares on late-seral habitat to 1 per 4-20 hectares on mid-seral habitat over a two-year period (Saiwana et al. 1998); 1 per 8.8-11.7 hectares on two adjacent areas over an eight-year period (Campbell et al. 1973). In south Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, population densities have been estimated to be 1 per 0.4 hectare, 1 per 10.9-25.9 hectares, and 1 per 5.3 hectares, respectively (Schemnitz 1994).
Generally sedentary, one individual moved 96 kilometers (Campbell and Harris 1965). Relatively short-lived; complete turnover in quail populations occurs about every six years. In New Mexico, first-year mortality averages 86 percent, annual adult mortality averages 70 percent, and annual mortality for the entire population averages 83 percent. The mortality rate for females is higher than for males (Campbell et al. 1973). Adults studied in New Mexico and Oklahoma exhibited male-biased sex ratios, whereas the sex ratio of first-year birds varied from parity in Oklahoma to female-biased in New Mexico (Campbell et al. 1973, Schemnitz 1961). The biased sex ratio of first-year birds in New Mexico may be due to the difficulty in positively determining sex of young birds (Campbell et al. 1973). Presumably sexually mature in first year after hatching.
Winter coveys average 31.2 birds in Oklahoma, 22.3-41.5 birds in Texas, and 33.4 birds in Colorado (Schemnitz 1994). Coveys begin forming in August and break up the following spring (March-April; Schemnitz 1961).
Habitat-related Fire Effects
and grasses over dense brush, would probably be beneficial to scaled
In a study to assess the effects of fire (used to control Pinchot
juniper [Juniperus pinchotii]) on scaled quail habitat, populations of
scaled quail on 3- and 7-year-old burns were compared with populations
on unburned pastures. Scaled quail on the 3-year-old burn had diets of
materials which were coarser and less digestible than those on the
7-year-old burn or on unburned areas. Scaled quail on the 3-year-old
burn had lower amounts of stored fat than those on the 7-year-old burn
or on unburned areas. The lower lipid reserves were attributed to the
lower quality diet and reduced roosting areas associated with the more
recent burn [17,18]. Common broomweed (Amphyiachyrus dracunculoides)
comprised 40 percent of scaled quail diets on 4-year-old burns .
Timing of Major Life History Events
mid-June. Nesting probably does not begin until early July . In
Oklahoma, egg laying usually starts in late April. Completed clutches
have been found as early as May 8 . Egg laying occurs from March to
June in Texas and Mexico, and from April to September in New Mexico
. Nests with eggs were reported as early as April 15 in New Mexico .
Clutch Size: Scaled quail lay from 9 to 16 eggs; most clutches are 12
to 14 eggs .
Incubation: Eggs are incubated by the female for 21 to 23 days.
Double-brooding (the production of two consecutive broods in one season)
is common . In west Texas, Wallmo  observed the male rearing
the first brood while the female began a second clutch. Sutton 
stated, however, that scaled quail in Oklahoma are probably
single-brooded, but have hatched broods as late as September 6. Ehrlich
and others  also list scaled quail as single-brooded.
Development of Young: The precocial young leave the nest shortly after
hatching. They are accompanied by at least one, usually both, parents,
who show them how to find food . The young fledge rapidly
(age at fledging not reported in the literature), and are adult size in
11 to 15 weeks [7,15].
Seasonal Movements: Scaled quail are fairly sedentary. The winter home
ranges of scaled quail coveys varied from 24 to 84 acres (9.6-33.6 ha).
The home ranges of separate coveys overlap only slightly or not at all
[15,24]. From September to November scaled quail coveys maintain stable
territories [11,24]. In Arizona, 75 to 90 percent of a population
apparently moved off of a breeding area by mid-November, moving to
nearby mountain foothills. The mountain habitat was consistent with
that found on the breeding area. In March the population on the
breeding area increased again, with most birds in groups of four to
Nonbreeding Behavior: The average winter covey size for scaled quail
is around 30 birds, although coveys of up to 150 birds have been
Life History and Behavior
Pair formation typically begins in mid-March in Oklahoma, but can commence as early as mid-February in Arizona (Schemnitz 1994). The nesting season begins in mid-April in Arizona and New Mexico and extends through late September throughout the range (Schemnitz 1961). Second broods are uncommon, but renesting is not. Clutch size averages 12.7 eggs (range = 9-22). Incubation takes 22-23 days and is conducted principally by the female (Schemnitz 1994). Hatching success can be 90 percent, but nest success varies from 14-22 percent (Schemnitz 1961). In New Mexico, 84 percent of eggs hatch between May and July (Campbell et al. 1973).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Callipepla squamata
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Callipepla squamata
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- Least Concern (LC)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)