Bryan McKay, age 8; of Merrillville, Ind., for his question:
WHAT ARE THE QUAIL'S NESTING HABITS?
Quail are in the Phasianidae family that includes 178 different species. Related are all of the partridges and pheasants.
Among the best known quail in North America is the bobwhite of the East and South. Also familiar is the plumed California quail. Both are popular sporting birds
Quail are monogamous that is, they mate with just one bird and tend to stay together as a family for a long period of time. All quail build their nests on. the ground, usually hidden under vegetation. The lady in the family does most of the work in building the nest, and she also does most of the incubating on the 12 to 15 eggs she has laid. The man in the family does assist a little bit, however, and he often takes charge of the young.
The incubation period varies among the species of quail from between 21 and 25 days.
In the warmer parts, some multi brooded species raise as many as three broods in a year. A single brood is the , norm, however, in the Northern birds.
Young quail can run strongly after hatching and very soon are out catching food for themselves. Their wing quills grow so rapidly that they can usually fly short distances at the age of one week.
Quail usually stay as a family group and, as the young mature, families mingle together in groups called coveys. often more than 100 birds form a covey, and they stay together throughout the fall and into the winter.
The bobwhite roosts in coveys at night in a tight circle, the birds huddled together on the ground with their tails inward and their heads out. Western quail roost at night in bushes or low trees instead of on the ground.
The Japanese have successfully domesticated one type of quail and now raise them in large numbers as egg producers. Hen birds are kept individually in small cages not much larger than the bird itself. An individual bird so confined will lay up to 200 eggs per year. Dainty little quail eggs, spotted with dark red brown, are often more plentiful in markets in Tokyo than the eggs of chickens.
Both the bobwhite and California quail were introduced into New Zealand before the turn of the century. The California quail prospered and have become so plentiful in some regions that they are hunted for the market and even exported frozen to England. Even though large numbers of the bobwhite quail were introduced, they never prospered. Only a few remain in isolated spots. Why? The scientists aren't sure.