Catalina Island News

Adopt a Species: Catalina California Quail

Catalina Island Conservancy

In town you will see these beautiful, shy birds darting across Avalon Canyon Road on your way to the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. In the interior, you'll see them everywhere. The Catalina California quail (Callipepla californica catalinensis) is a unique subspecies endemic to the Island. Additionally, this subspecies has successfully been introduced to the northern Channel Islands of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz..

Quail are very social birds and group together to form coveys. A typical covey may consist of between 25 and 40 birds, but have been reported to grow in excess of 1,000 birds among mainland populations. Quail are known to exhibit cooperative behavior in locating food and spotting potential danger, and communicate well using a variety of calls.

They can be found in areas of open scrub and oak woodlands along canyon bottoms and on shady north-facing slopes. Their diet consists primarily of seeds. They also eat fruits, berries, and insects.

Quail are considered "common" and are widespread and abundant on Catalina, even more so than on the mainland. However, they have been identified as a Bird Species of Special Concern by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Quail were first recorded on Catalina Island in the 1860s, but the morphological differentiation between Catalina quail and the mainland California quail suggest that they have evolved here for thousands of years. Due to their frail bone structure, archeological evidence is limited, but one theory that is well supported suggests that quail may have been introduced to Santa Catalina by Native Americans approximately 12,000 years ago.

Females usually lay their eggs between May and June but may also occasionally nest in late summer. The female usually lays approximately 12 eggs, and in good years females may lay more than one clutch. Although they are monogamous, they usually pair up with new mates each spring. The incubation period is approximately three weeks.

Although quail can live 6 to7 years in captivity, their survival in the wild may be much shorter. While hunting quail is prohibited on the Island, Catalina California quail are prey species for snakes, hawks, feral cats, and the endemic and endangered Catalina Island fox. Long-term fire suppression may also impact the Catalina quail by promoting the growth of impenetrable brush and dense woodlands not ideal for nesting or foraging. 

The Conservancy's CHIRP program (Catalina Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program) works to control the spread of invasive plants and restore the Island's habitat in a manner that helps to support the more that 50 endemic species that call Catalina home.

Through the Conservancy's new Adopt a Species program, you can play a leading role in wildlife protection and management on Catalina Island. Choose a "symbolic adoption" from among four of Catalina's iconic and endemic species including the Catalina California quail; the federally endangered, endemic Catalina Island fox; the endemic Catalina California ground squirrel; and the iconic American bison, introduced to the Island in 1924. 

Starting at just $100, you can partner with Conservancy wildlife biologists to protect these and other Island species and help them continue to thrive. For more information, visit: our wesite and click on Adopt a Species on the home page.