WatchList Species Account for Scaled Quail
(Callipepla squamata)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © A. Wilson, USGS
Photo: © A. Wilson, USGS

This gregarious game bird is resident in the desert grasslands of northern and central Mexico and in the southwestern U.S. in southwestern Kansas, southeastern Colorado, south to western Texas and west through most of New Mexico and into southeastern Arizona. Introduced populations have been established in east-central Washington and in eastern Nevada.


The birds preferred year-round habitat is desert grassland and grassland with scattered shrubs under which the birds roost at night. It is also often common around ranches and farmsteads.


In the winter Scaled Quail form large coveys. The bird runs more often than flies when alarmed. Foods includ seeds of forbs, shrubs and grain, with insects seasonally forming a larger proportion of the diet than with other quail.


Studies show that hunting does not seem to affect population levels, but that a prime threat is overgrazing, the apparent cause of a sharp decline in its numbers noted since Breeding Bird Surveys began. Analysis of Christmas Bird Count data in the 1990s showed a decline up to 50% in some parts of its range. To protect habitat for the species a more moderate grazing regime is needed; placing piles of brush near water sources would also benefit the bird.