Gamble’s Quail


One year, for Christmas Eve dinner, my mother served quail instead of the regular turkey or standing rib roast. I refused to eat it. I was probably your age or younger, Sam, and didn’t know about vegetarianism, but I looked at that tiny little bird body on my plate and thought, “No Way.”

The Gambel’s Quail live in the deserts of Arizona. They like scrub forests, because they live on the ground and are kind of crappy fliers. The scrub forests give them a ground cover that they can run their tiny little butts through the grasses and scrubs to avoid predators. Like the Gerenuk, the Gambel’s Quail will remain motionless when they sense a predator. Their feathers camoflage them against the vegetation. . .so they. . .just. . .stand. . .totally. . .still. . .

I’ve seen several descriptions of quails that use the term “chunky” or “round” body. Ok. I understand these are descriptive terms, but I’m still sensitive to the negative connotations associated with them.  Perhaps a more polite way of referring to the quail’s shape would be “Rubenesque.” Nothing beats being compared to a Master Painter’s work. Unless the Master Painter is Goya or Bosch (which might get confusing and/or gross). Anyway, Gambel’s Quail, named after William Gambel (1823 – 1849), an American naturalist, who “discovered” this type of quail while traveling along the Santa Fe trail.

Hieronymus_Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights tryptich
Teeny detail of weird birds from Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights

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