Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2007-01

Common name:

Scaled Quail

Scientific name: Callipepla squamata
Date: 15 Jan 2007
Time: approx 11:50 am - 12:15 pm
Length of time observed: approximately 25 minutes
Number: 3
Age: adults (at least the ones I looked at)
Sex: ?
Location: Unnamed side canyon to Montezuma Canyon located about 14 miles SE of Blanding. It is reached along (County?) Road 146 by traveling about 2.7 miles north of (County?) Road 206, both of which are unpaved.
County: San Juan
Latilong: approx 109 degrees 14' 21" W; 37 degrees 31' 13" N (based on topo map)
Elevation: approx 4960 (based on topo map)
Distance to bird: 10 - 200 feet at different times
Optical equipment: Leica 10x50 binoculars, Nikon digital camera with 300 mm lens (spent most of the time looking through the camera)
Weather: Sunny, clear, very cold (far below freezing--around zero F)
Light Conditions: Excellent: we were at various angles to the birds relative to the sun. The quail were in the open sun and in the shade of trees at different times
Description:        Size of bird: The size of a California quail. Depending on posture, the quails were up to roughly a foot high (when alert)
(Description:)       Basic Shape: classic New World quail shape: plump, football-shaped bodies with small head with prominent crest, fairly short neck, short legs, and short tails; upright posture.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Overall pale buff and grayish tones
(Description:)            Bill Type: small, very short, triangular--almost rounded
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Shape & size of California quail (see above).

Overall color was pale buff with grayish tones (as on wings). The pale buffy/grayish breast was delicately yet distinctly scalloped with black edgings to feathers, forming the fish-scale pattern for which the species was named. This scaling extended up to the upper breast & sides of neck. The head was buffy with a prominent, back-leaning, tapered crest (not the thin topknot of Gambel's or California quail). This crest was distinctly and contrastingly blond (very pale buff) on top. There was no dark spot on the belly as one finds in California or Gambel's quails. There were pale, horizontal streaks on the flanks.

The tail was short and pale with no barring/streaking, and with no bands.

I apologize for not making more careful observations of the species. I was trying to obtain a good photo of the species to document this record, so did not concentrate on fieldmarks or field notes after making the initial ID. Most of my observations were actually made naked-eye and
through my camera (300 mm lens), with only short, though aesthetically pleasing, observations through my binoculars. I have not downloaded and reviewed the photos as of the writing of this description, so am not relying on those for the written portion.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: The quail repeatedly gave off the wheezy, two-note call which is illustrated on the Stokes Western CD. The second note is longer.

The calls began shortly after my companion, Larene, walked past the small flock, but may have also been provoked by us playing a tape of the species' calls nearby a few minutes earlier.
Behavior: Walking or scurrying between sheltered areas along a boulder-strewn hillside. Would hide in the shade of junipers, but move off when I approached. Started off in the flats and moved onto the slope, then flew down onto the flats into a particularly thick patch of greasewood(?) and repeated the movement toward and up to the slope. This behavior was no doubt caused by us "herding" them in my attempts to get a 1st-record-worthy photo.
Habitat: The area is a dry flat-bottomed side canyon ringed by sandstone cliffs with tallus slopes at their base, with some large boulders that form overhangs in which a quail-sized animal could shelter. There are some scatered junipers on the tallus slopes. There is a stream within about one third mile to the east (Montezuma Creek) with an associated desert riparian strip (Cottonwoods, etc.). The flat contains almost no grasses/forbes (it is very overgrazed--cow tracks are everywhere).
There are many bushes (2-3 feet high) of what appears to be greasewood or possibly saltbrush. A steep-walled mini-arroyo bisects the flat.
(see photos)
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The call was distinctive for this species, and came shortly after we had played our tape of the species call (so we were familiar with it).

California & Gambel's Quail: The other two Utah quails both have thin, teardrop-shaped, all-dark, foreward-leaning plumes ("topknots") on their foreheads, unlike the buffy, blond-tipped crest of these quail. The overall color of these quail was also much more buffy on the back
rather than the even, bluish gray of the other two quail species. There were no dark face/throat markings as are found on the faces of the males of the other two quail species. The scalloping extended up onto the upper breast.

Chukar: That species has an even shorter tail, is bigger, and has prominent, vertical bars on its flanks. It also lacks scaling on breast and a crest. Tail has red feathers.

Gray Partridge: Lacks scaling on breast, buffy color, crest. Tail has red feathers. Flanks show red barring.

Ruffed Grouse: Wrong overall jizz. Much too big. The crest on that species is not blond-tipped. Breast is not buffy.

Sharp-tailed Grouse: ditto. Scaling is not of the same distinct type, nor does it extend down breast far enough.

Sage Grouse: Much too large, with long, pointed tail.

Blue Grouse: Much too large & wrong color pattern. No crest.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen the species several times over the years in New Mexico and Colorado.
References consulted: Before the sighting I reviewed the Natl. Geographic and Sibley guides. We used the Stokes Western CD for audial confirmation.
Description from: From memory
Observer: David Wheeler
Observer's address:  2196 South 1000 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Larene Wyss. The bird was originally reported on the Birdnet by Dennis Shirley, whose instructions we followed. I believe his son Jay made the original discovery.
Date prepared: 16 Jan 2007
Additional material: Digital photos to be sent in in the next couple days
Additional comments: