Scientific Name: Colinus virginianus.
Bobwhite quail are small, ground-dwelling birds of the fowl family. Adults stand six to seven inches tall and weigh six to seven ounces. Males have a black and white striped head, while females have a brown and white striped head which helps to camouflage them while incubating the eggs. They get their name from their distinctive whistle which sounds like they’re saying “bob white.” This link offers audio clips of the many different calls of the bobwhite.
Bobwhite quail are mostly found in the eastern and central United States. They require large expanses of clumped native warm season grasses mixed with annual weeds, legumes, briars, and other woody thickets that offer protection overhead while providing open areas at ground level. They prefer areas where half the ground is exposed and the remainder contains upright growth of herbaceous and woody vegetation. Living requirements change with seasons. In the spring and summer they need grasslands, drainage ditches and roadside and pond edges for nesting, feeding, and roosting cover. In the summer and fall, they require cropland for feeding, dusting, and roosting. In the fall and winter, they depend on dense, brushy areas for food and for escape. They eat primarily grain crops and weed seeds as well as fruits and insects.
During early fall, bobwhite adults and broods form into social groupings with an average of twelve birds. They roost on the ground in a circle with their heads pointed outward which allows them to conserve heat and more easily escape nocturnal predators. They remain in groupings until “spring breakup” at which time they disperse to begin the mating season. Males begin to make the familiar “bob-bob-white” call to attract hens for breeding. Females lay 10 to 20 eggs with an average of twelve, laid one-a-day. Incubation lasts about 23 days, and young are precocial and follow their parents upon hatching.
Bobwhites provided a subsistence food for Native Americans and settlers. They became a big game bird and still are today. They are the most abundant of the six species of quail in the U.S. Bobwhites need a certain kind of habitat in order to survive. Farmers today are asked to leave a thicket border along the edges of their cropland that is suitable for bobwhites.