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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America
(1903)

[Plate XXVII. American quail or partridge. (Ortyx Virginianus.) cont.],   pp. 29-30


Page 29


AMERICAN QUAIL OR PARTRIDGE.
birds resort to their various tricks of deception. But later, when
the power of flight is more fully developed in the young, they all,
including the parents, fly to the trees, if any are near, and conceal
themselves in the branches.
During summer, Quails subsist chiefly on insects and different
vegetable matter, and also on grain. In the fall the latter, espe-
cially Indian corn, forms their principal food. In summer, old and
young lead a gay life, without any special cares; but, as soon as
winter begins, they often experience bitter want, and this fre-
quently causes them to wander to more southern regions. Many
of them perish on such wanderings, as they are constantly exposed
to enemies, man especially using all his skill to secure this deli-
cious game. In the month of October, Quails settle in great num-
bers on the banks of the larger rivers, enlivening the woody shores
and crossing daily from one side of the stream to the other. Later
they appear on the roads, searching in the manure of horses for
food. But when deep snow covers the road, they are driven by
hunger to the neighborhood of the settlements, and even to farm-
yards, where they mix with the poultry and are satisfied to pick
up the crumbs they may by chance find. If the inmates of a farm-
house treat them with hospitality, they will remain in the neigh-
borhood, and their confidence will continue to grow so that some-
times single ones become more than half-domesticated.
Our Quail is wonderfully adapted for domestication, and for be-
coming acclimated in other countries. Captive QCuails, which at
the beginning were treated with a little care, soon got reconciled
to their confinement, losing all their natural shyness, and getting
used, in a very short time, to the hand that fed them; but such as
are raised from birds already tamed become far more easily domes-
ticated. It is said that, in New England, eggs of the Quail have
been sometimes placed in the nests of domestic hens, and were
hatched together with the hen's eggs. At first the young Quails
behaved like the chickens, coming at the call of the hen, and en-
tering the farm-yard and buildings; but later their wild nature got
the upper hand, and they invariably flew away.
In a case that came under our notice, fifteen eggs were placed
in the nest of the sitting hen, of which fourteen were hatched. The
hen was put in a box with laths nailed in front, so that she could
not leave the box and roam about with the young Quails; but
these could run in and out as they pleased.  They acted precisely
as young chickens, obeying the call of the hen until nearly full
grown, when, instead of going into the cage at night, they formed a
close cluster outside and in front of it, and so spent the night-in
regular Q)uail-like style. Attempts were made to get them to go to
the roost with the hens, which were surprisingly successful; but
when the winter was over, and the days began to grow warmer,
the young Quails divided off into pairs, and one pair after another
took to the fields, never to return.
At one time, a boy brought me a pair of Q.uails, a male and fe-
male, which he had caught in a trap. It was in the latter part of
February. I made a large inclosure for them in my garden, about
eight feet long by four wide and about four feet high. It was
made of common lath. About the middle of May, the female
made a regular nest and began to lay. After she had laid eighteen
eggs, she commenced sitting, the male pretty regularly relieving
her. On the twenty-third day, I observed the heads of some
young ones peeping out under the breast-feathers of the hen.
The next day, on coming to the inclosure, I found the hen had left
the nest with her eighteen young ones following her. Every egg
was hatched. At first, the young appeared more shy than com-
mon chickens are; but, as they were never suffered to be scared,
they soon became quite familiar with me, the old as well as the
young ones. When I attempted to put my hand under the mother
bird, she became quite infuriated and bit my hand as well as she
could. The young remained with the parents through the winter,
and when spring came, I took the old pair and all th'e young ex-
cept two pairs, and liberated them. I had expected some of them
would return, attracted perhaps by the loud " bob, bob white" of
the two pairs that were kept in the same old place, but not one
of them ever returned. In due time my Quails began to mate and
build nests; but it seems they became somewhat confused, and
laid their eggs in one and the same nests, while the males kept up
almost incessant fights with each other. To stop this, one pair was
removed; the consequence was that they abandoned the nest and
eggs. I removed nest and eggs, and about three weeks after, the
female began to build a new nest, but in the meantime she dropped
several more eggs on the ground. After she had laid her full com-
plement, she began to sit and hatched her young. For many a year
I raised my young Quails without any trouble. They roamed
about the yard like other poultry, and did not seem inclined to run
away.
Alexander Wilson has the following: Is The Partridge has some-
times been employed to hatch the eggs of the common domestic
hen. A friend of mine, who himself made the experiment, in-
forms me, that of several hens' eggs which he substituted in place
of those of the Partridge, he brought out the whole; and that for
several weeks he surprised her in various parts of the plantation
with her brood of chickens, on which occasions she exhibited all
that distrustful alarm, and practiced her usual maneuvers for their
preservation. Even after they were considerably grown and
larger than the Partridge herself, she continued to lead them about;
but, though their notes or call were those of common chickens,
their manners had all the shyness, timidity, and alarm of young
Partridges, running with great rapidity and squatting in the grass
exactly in the manner of the Partridge. Soon after this they dis-
appeared, having probably been destroyed by dogs, by the gun,
or by birds of prey. Whether the domestic fowl might not by this
method be very soon brought back to its original savage state, and
thereby supply another additional subject for the amusement of the
sportsman, will scarcely admit of a doubt. But the experiment,
in order to secure its success, would require to be made in a quarter
of the country less exposed than ours to the ravages of guns, traps,
dogs, and the deep snows of winter, that the new tribe might have
full time to become completely naturalized and well fixed in their
native habits."
Hunting the Quail affords much amusement to our sportsmen,
but requires no little skill. When these birds can not escape by ru?-
ning away, they squat, and in case of extreme danger one will
spring up here and another yonder at the same time, and usually
close before the feet of the sportsman, who must be a good marks-
man in order 'to bring down one or two of these quickly flying
birds. The hunting becomes more difficult after the Quails have
reached the woods, as they then take to the trees, where no dog can
find them by the scent, and the disappointed hunter can seldom
see one of them, but only hear now and then their loud whir when
they fly off in the opposite direction. If the sportsman, however,
understands how to imitate their call, he may be more successful,
as they invariably answer the call.
The male may be considered a beautiful bird, although the color-
ing of his plumage is not gay. All the feathers of the upper part
are reddish brown, spotted and dotted with black, and banded and
seamed with a yellowish hue. Those of the lower or under side
are yellowish white, streaked longitudinally with reddish brown
penciled with black. A white band, beginning on the front, runs
over the eye toward the hind part of the neck. The throat is
snowy white and circled with a band of black, which begins be-
fore the eye, near the corner of the mouth. The white line over
the eye is also banded with black, while the sides of the neck are
beautifully marked with black, white, and red-brown spots. The
predominant color of the upper wing-coverts are reddish brown;
primaries are dark brown, their outer vane having bluish seams.
The secondaries are irregularly banded with saffron; the tail
feathers are sprinkled with grayish blue, with the exceptiou of the
two middle ones, which are yellowish gray sprinkled with black, and
the feathers of the breast have a kind of vinaceous gloss. The eye
is hazel, the bill -rown, and the legs grayish. The female is .'is-
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