A California Quail–in our back yard?

We entertained a very unlikely visitor today. Actually, he entertained us.

I need to set this up a bit.

Our neighborhood, with many large trees and a lush golf course, is quite “green” compared to much of what surrounds us. But we still live 12-miles from downtown Los Angeles. What we experience as suburbia is still in the heart of urban living.

I’ve written many times about suburban wildlife and shared stories of interesting and unexpected visitors to our back yard.

Before today I think this black-crowned night heron feeding from our pond was the most surprising visitor. We must have been on his flight path!

But I’m still scratching my head about today’s very unexpected guest.


This is a California Quail. Our state bird! Surprise!

This beautiful western tanager was also in our back yard today. This time of year we have visitors “just passing through” on their migratory path.

Most of our resident birds are sweet little regulars, but not particularly colorful.

I hope I didn’t hurt their feelings today when I actually squealed in delight as this new friend stopped by and lingered for a few hours.

This is not the same photo as the first. He just didn’t do very much. My several dozen photos look amazingly similar.

If Jay had not been sitting outdoors having his lunch I think we’d have missed this special visit.

I can’t overemphasize how completely unusual and unexpected it is for us to have a California quail in our backyard. I’m a Los Angeles native and I’ve never seen one outside of vast open foothill, rural or mid-state seaside locations.

I can’t wait until tomorrow.

I’ll be watching!

“Spend time every day looking and listening without any ulterior motive whatsoever. Look not as a writer, or as a philosopher, not even as a scientist or artist—look and listen, simply, like a child, for enjoyment, because the world is interesting and beautiful. Let in nature without the vast and complicated apparatus of duty, ambition, habit, morals, profession—look and listen like a child to the robin in the tree. Of such sights and sounds are the kingdom of beauty, the sources of power and joy.”
—David Grayson (pen-name Ray Standard Baker)






49 thoughts on “A California Quail–in our back yard?

  1. Ray V. May 1, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    Well, it surely doesn’t have to worry about being chased away by Darwin 😊

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:54 pm

      That’s for sure, Ray! Darwin has his own domain and maintains his independence. I gave Darwin a whole can of pumpkin today so that he’d know he’s still #1. 🙂

  2. aFrankAngle May 1, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    Cheers to the attraction your sanctuary is for visitors – both the expected and unexpected!

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:55 pm

      Thank you, Frank. My little visitor was back again today and I just can’t believe it still! He’s so very far out of his native habitat and I have so many questions!

  3. Andrew Reynolds May 1, 2018 / 7:41 pm

    Interesting – I’ve never seen a quail in our urban area. Normally you have to be much further out in the country for that. Strangely enough though, I’ve seen more California quail in Nevada than I’ve ever seen in my home town.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:02 pm

      I think you know how incredibly unusual this visit is, Andrew. He was back again today and I’m wondering if there’s possibly a nest nearby. I’m just fascinated and hope he can remain safe from predators. I haven’t seen this species too many times in my life, but when I have, it’s been in very rural open land. Do you think they’ve gone to Nevada to avoid our taxes? 🙂

      • Andrew Reynolds May 2, 2018 / 8:10 pm

        Hehehe, yes it’s likely that’s why so many are in Nevada. You’ve special visitor there.

  4. nrhatch May 1, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    How fun! I’m glad that he didn’t visit without being noticed by you. That’s a great quote to keep in mind as we travel through our days ~ pay attention, and get ready to be surprised!

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:03 pm

      I loved the quote when I read it, too, Nancy. And I do know that if Jay hadn’t been outdoors sitting and heard the call, there’s no way I would have seen him. He was in a very unlikely spot at the rear of our property. And then he came back again today! I’m just thrilled. I do hope he stays safe. He’s a long way from home. 🙂

  5. Ginny May 1, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    We have Gambel’s quail in our area. I’m always happy when they are in our yard. So far none have nested here which would make me very happy.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:06 pm

      Hi Ginny! I’m so glad you stopped by and shared about the Gambel’s quail. I am not familiar with that species, but will look him up. Isn’t it interesting how much these little creatures mean to us and how they speak to us when they’re so close! Our little guy was back again today in the same spot. I’m wondering if there’s a nest nearby, but I must admit I’m a little perplexed. I have so many questions! LOL!

  6. auntyuta May 1, 2018 / 10:24 pm

    I enjoyed looking at your photos, Debra. They are very beautiful. 🙂 We have lots of birds in the tall trees surrounding us in our area. They entertain us with a lot of chirping. They fly up high in the air from tree to tree, so that we can hardly ever properly see them or take photos of them. Alas, it’s lovely to know that they are there. 🙂
    I liked reading this verse by David Grayson (pen-name Ray Standard Baker). Thanks for including it. Grayson says: “look and listen, simply, like a child, for enjoyment, because the world is interesting and beautiful . . .” I reckon this is excellent advice! 🙂

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:08 pm

      I really love the quote, too, Uta, and it is such a wonderful reminder to those of us who have beautiful surroundings with opportunities to be out in nature. If we don’t stop long enough to take note we have lost something very valuable! This little guy was back in our yard again today, so he may be staying for a little while. I am thrilled! It’s nice to learn that you enjoy listening to the birds, as well! 🙂

      • auntyuta May 2, 2018 / 11:12 pm

        Yes, Debra, we are very lucky that we can sit outside enjoying nature. 🙂

  7. restlessjo May 2, 2018 / 12:36 am

    That’s a great quote. And how very privilged! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you. 🙂 🙂

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:10 pm

      Thank you, Jo. My little guy was back again today. I don’t know how long he’ll stay, but I’m just thrilled and will enjoy him as long as he would like to grace me with his presence. I loved the quote, as well, and I’m going to try to find more writings from this author. He seems someone I’d enjoy. 🙂

  8. Chatter Master May 2, 2018 / 2:44 am

    What a treat Debra! I am sure your backyard oasis is what calls to the flying world.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:18 pm

      Thank you, Colleen. My little guy was back again today! I think his visit makes me consider how many ways I might try to be even more hospitable to the birds. I might try feeders with seeds that are different from our “usual” and see who finds it. 🙂 I just love the surprise element of his visit. He’s been a gift!

      • Chatter Master May 3, 2018 / 1:03 pm

        It sounds like this little fella has made you very happy. 🙂

  9. Amy May 2, 2018 / 7:31 am

    Wow, California quail in your backyard, how special! So beautifully captured, Debra. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 8:20 pm

      Thank you, Amy. I am really enjoying this little guy. I had to take my limited zoom and do what I could! If I’d been any closer I was afraid I’d scare him away. 🙂

  10. Jim Stewart May 2, 2018 / 7:37 am

    We’ve been watching Mourning Doves nesting on a ledge under the patio roof. The first chick fledged Monday and the other will, I think, fledge today. Mom and Dad, with the other chick, are waiting patiently under the trellis by the roses. I hope we don’t miss the reunion.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:35 pm

      That’s wonderful, Jim. I watched some Mourning Doves in a window box at my mother’s a couple of years ago and I couldn’t believe how interesting they were! I always think it’s such a privilege when birds nest in our yards and feel safe with us as their temporary protectors. I, too, hope that you don’t miss any of the excitement. 🙂

  11. nonsmokingladybug May 2, 2018 / 7:52 am

    I don’t think I have ever seen a quail in our yard either. Great pictures, Debra.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:30 pm

      He was back again today! There is just NO reason I can think of for him to be this far south. I am going to try to contact someone at our local Audubon Society and see what they might say! Maybe I’ll learn they’re not as rare as I think, but I’d be very surprised! 🙂

  12. Dee Ready May 2, 2018 / 9:25 am

    Dear Debra, your posting left me feeling excited for you! I so hope that the California quail stayed a while and shared its serenity with you. Thank you for this posting and for the quote with which you ended it. I haven’t even gotten my porch furniture out. I need to do that so I can sit on the porch and simply enjoy nature. The quote is giving me a shove in the right direction! Peace.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:27 pm

      I’m so glad I could share with you, Dee, and especially that it might encourage you to begin transitioning to outdoor porch sitting. 🙂 Nothing better after a long winter. The little quail was back again this afternoon. I first heard his call, and went out and there he was. In the same spot. I’m wondering if there’s a mate and nest nearby, although I still can hardly believe that’s possible! I’m simply enjoying his company and considering it a gift that he’s come to stay for a while. I am talking to him. But I’m also keeping a distance because I don’t want him to feel afraid and possibly fall into trouble. As long as he’s up high on the fence I think he’s safe from most predators. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your excitement with me, my friend.

  13. Kate Crimmins May 2, 2018 / 11:46 am

    Wonderful! We occasionally get stragglers here as we back up to a protected game preserve. One year we had a beautiful blue parakeet which would not survive the winter. I tried to capture but it wasn’t giving up it’s freedom.

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:22 pm

      He’s been back again today! I am so curious about “why” he’s here at all! I have been a dues paying member of a local Audubon Chapter but I have never been to a meeting. Today I made the decision that I need to get involved and learn a lot more, as well as make the connections to people who would be able to give me the information I need! I am a little worried about him. But I’m going to tell myself only happy endings. 🙂

      • Kate Crimmins May 3, 2018 / 5:56 am

        I always get worried when I see something out of it’s normal environment. Too many other predators like cars.

  14. RetirementallyChallenged.com May 2, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    Wow! That sure would be a surprise to see one of those in our yard too! We have wild parrots around here but no quails. Great photos!

    • Debra May 2, 2018 / 7:19 pm

      Our little fellow was back again today. I don’t know if I should be concerned for him. I do wonder if he’s lost, or has a mate and nest close by, or if we even have the right food for him. I am trying to learn what I can but he really is in the wrong neighborhood. LOL! I’m having fun, however. 🙂

  15. clinock May 2, 2018 / 10:06 pm

    If I were a bird I would also want to spend all winter in your beautiful garden.
    What does the heron have in his/her beak? Looks wriggly and not quite dead, Klingon food?
    I envy your variety of birds. Being more urban my particular ‘hood is crows, robins and the occasional humming bird.
    Our Province (State) bird is the Stellar’s Jay.
    The Grayson quote is so right on. What we pay attention to forms who we become.

  16. hotlyspiced May 4, 2018 / 4:28 pm

    How wonderful. And terrific you were home to capture it on camera. Your photos are beautiful and there’s a beautiful background for the images. You have a very beautiful garden xx

  17. 2e0mca May 6, 2018 / 12:55 pm

    Some unexpected visitors (like Uncle Bert and Auntie Edna) might be unwelcome 😉 Birds are always welcome – what a wonderful addition to your garden list! I always love seeing new species in out backyard. Most recent addition last year was the Blackcap – now common in London as the species goes through a major change of its breeding range due to changes in climate. Also seeing a gradual resurgence of the humble House Sparrow – recovering slowly from a major decline as they adapt to changes in housing and nesting opportunities. Keep supporting your wildlife Debra because the payback in joy is beyond any monetary value!

    • Debra May 10, 2018 / 1:56 pm

      Thank you for sharing your birding experiences and the pleasure you also receive from taking note of “new” backyard visitors, Martin. I do wonder what climate change and urban encroachment might do to disturb our feathered friends. I’m doing as much as I can so that they can at least feel safe in my backyard. This little quail was surely an aberration, but he’s now raised my expectations and I have hope for other “exotic” visitors. 🙂

  18. lifeonthecutoff May 6, 2018 / 8:33 pm

    Oh, Debra, you can imagine my excitement at seeing this! Wow. Your photos are amazing, and I remember that heron, but, the quail is absolutely amazing. I wonder if quail has become more acclimated to your more urbanized locale or, perhaps, recent weather conditions or the fires have altered the quails course. At any rate, please keep us posted.

    I LOVE the quote and will put it into my Commonplace Book asap.

    • Debra May 10, 2018 / 1:53 pm

      Thank you, Penny. I really am quite mystified with our little quail’s visit. I am going next week to the monthly meeting of the Pasadena Audubon Society. I’ve contributed to them as a member for a couple of years and never once been to a meeting. This was the push I needed. I’m hoping to learn a lot more about the quail, and other birds, certainly! I will indeed keep you posted. Thank you, my friend. 🙂

  19. Donald Wilden May 7, 2018 / 9:06 am

    How Lovely! I love birds! Debi

    • Debra May 10, 2018 / 1:49 pm

      Isn’t this surprising, Deb? You wouldn’t expect it in our area, would you? ox

  20. philipstrange May 8, 2018 / 1:10 am

    Fascinating to read about your unusual visitor. We get very excited here when we see a bullfinch in the garden, they are shy birds and the males have the most exquisite pink breasts. I liked your quote,it has great resonance. I was reminded of a statement by Mary Oliver: “attention is the beginning of devotion”

    • Debra May 10, 2018 / 1:47 pm

      What a wonderful Mary Oliver quote. She is a favorite! I don’t really know bullfinches, Philip. I must go to my bird books. 🙂

  21. thefolia May 9, 2018 / 5:04 am

    Always nice to have feathered friends come for a visit. How wonderful you were present for this unusual phenomenon, a deserving treat for your awareness and your one with nature

    • thefolia May 9, 2018 / 5:06 am

      disposition you have Debra. Happy feasting outdoors and wishing you many more sitings like these.

    • Debra May 10, 2018 / 1:42 pm

      I really couldn’t believe how much joy this little quail brought to me, Cristina. He was a true gift to me! Thank you for sharing in my pleasure. 🙂

  22. reocochran May 13, 2018 / 2:13 am

    I loved your bird visitors, Debra! Wow! I won’t write much but hope you see I enjoyed very much your visit to the vineyards and home of the Coppola’s. 🍾🥂🍷🍷

  23. San Diego Car Shipping June 20, 2018 / 4:00 pm

    You must have a beautiful backyard to attract an interesting guest! By the way, I like the quote at the end of your blog.

    • Debra June 22, 2018 / 3:06 pm

      Thank you for stopping by “breatheligher.” Welcome! We do add a variety of bird feeders and have a pond in the backyard the birds enjoy, but the quail was such a surprise and delight! You may have pieced through the text of my responses to other readers, but we’ve lived in this house for 45 years and this was a definite first! I think it was just a sweet reminder that wildlife are all around us, and when we pay attention we can appreciate a special bond. 🙂

I always enjoy hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.