Scientific name: Colinus virginianus
Other common names: Bobwhite Quail; Virginia Quail; Bobwhite
The beloved Bobwhite is the eastern quail species of North America, with a traditional range from as far south as Guatemala and as far north as southern Canada. There may be more than 20 subspecies of this once well-known gamebird of the eastern grass and woodlands. Unfortunately, in many areas, the population of the wild bird is in freefall. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), currently rates the species as “Near Threatened,” which seems to understate the case, considering the rapidity of its disappearance from its former haunts. The cause of the population decline, especially the speed of the decline in the southeastern United States, is debated, but many locals blame the spread of fire ants attacking these ground-nesting birds. Good old-fashioned habitat destruction, feral cats that challenge any ground-nesting bird, and changes in fire management of grass and woodlands probably also play a role.
Because of their importance as hunting and meat birds, the Bobwhite's position in captive breeding programs is secure. There are a large number of useful and ornamental varieties that have been developed over the years, including Georgia Giant, Butler's Bobwhite, Tennessee Red Bobwhite, Silver Bobwhite, White Bobwhite, and the dapper Tuxedo Bobwhite.
The Northern Bobwhite is the smallest eastern upland gamebird, with powerful feet and claws that hint at its ability to run. The wild form male is a particularly dapper specimen, with his instantly recognizable face – the throat and “eyebrow” are bright white, contrasting nicely with the dark cap and dark stripe through the eye. His reddish-brown underparts are beautifully marked with black and white, creating a handsome mottled appearance. The female's face is not so contrasty, but if you look close, you'll see buffy areas on the throat and “eyebrow” where the male wears white. Of course, the large number of subspecies, in addition to the many domestic color mutations, means that you have a variety of choices including white, blond, and “tuxedo.”
170 - 200 grams (6 - 7 oz.)
5 - 7 years
While the Bobwhite is considered a reasonably easy bird for beginners, they are at risk for various poultry diseases, especially if bred in large numbers. You should consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian, since vaccinations and other treatments can prevent a number of problems. Diseases that impact Bobwhites include Quail Bronchitis, Ulcerative Enteritis, Quail Pox, and Coccidiosis.
Behavior / temperament:
The name Bobwhite comes from the male's familiar call, as he seems to be repeating the name, “Bob White! Bob White!” over and over again in season. When planning a birdroom, consider that the same call heard from a distance outdoors is much more evocative than when the bird is going off at all hours indoors. That said, few people object to the call, which is heard all too seldom these days in many areas.
The Bobwhite naturally lives in coveys of around 5 to 30 birds, and they are not as destructive toward others of their kind a the Old World quails. However, in spring, males may become somewhat testy, so keep an eye on things, and make sure you have offered enough space and cover to give a chased bird plenty of room to get away from an aggressor.
How you house your Bobwhites depends on the purpose of your Bobwhites. Birds raised for meat, eggs, or color mutations can certainly be housed in cages in a well-ventilated birdroom. Egg producers can control the light to create artificially long days, which causes the Bobwhite female to lay many more eggs than she would normally do. They may not be as irascible toward each other as the Old World quail, but you should still provide them with a reasonable amount of space, and do not attempt to house multiple males together in small cages.
Many Bobwhites today are being raised for reintroduction or for hunting programs. These birds will need special pens, with plenty of space and cover, to allow them to acclimate to the weather and to develop their powers of flight. Quail are tasty birds, so they also need to be protected from a large number of predators, from snakes to raccoons to various hawks and eagles. It is strongly recommended that you work with a more advanced hobbyist or even a professional breeder to make sure that you are providing a good habitat for your birds. If you free range your birds, learn how from an expert, or else you may just be putting out a food table for your local raptors.
Bobwhites are remarkably easy to feed as long as you make sure that these ground-feeding birds have easy access to food and waterers on the floor. The backbone of the diet is usually a non-medicated commercial gamebird starter, which the birds can eat their entire lives, not just as babies. Don't ever consider feeding them on starter crumbles meant for chickens, since the balance of medications, calcium, and protein in chicken feed is all wrong for these quail. However, this species has also been successfully maintained on unmedicated turkey crumbles, if for some reason you don't have the gamebird starter. You can easily supplement the diet with a chopped salad of apples, greens, carrot, broccoli florets, and dry and sprouted seed such as millet or parakeet mix. You may offer them some tiny mealworms or other small insects as well. They should have access to a grit that includes crushed oyster shell or another form of calcium.
Written by Elaine Radford
Great meat, friendliest quail breed, hunting, extremely healthy, beginners, Wonderful personalities
temperament, fenced yard, high protein diet
SMALL backyard aviary, small white eggs, wonderful calls
Aside from Japanese Quail, Bobwhites were my second foray into the world of gamebird keeping. I used to run a small (and I do mean SMALL) backyard aviary in my suburban backyard, so quail are not what you would consider a common sight around town. I housed my bobwhites in the same aviary with finches, doves, and my small japanese quail, and they did surprisingly well together (normally they are aggressive to other large quail). I kept my Bobwhite population to 1 male and 2 females to prevent competition and they were quite fun to own. This breed of quail is fun for the hobby owner but you probably won't have much luck breeding them. Domestic quail have not sat on their eggs in many generations so if you are looking to breed, you will need to invest in an egg incubator and egg turner. But fear not, because once they get going, the egg supplies will be endless! These little quail have a cute appearance and friendly demeanor and are less flightly than other quail species such as Valley Quail. They are also a bird that is notoriously full of itself, making daily morning "bobwhite! bobwhite!" calls so all other birds also know its name. Such primadonnas! It was always fun going out to my aviary though and mimicking their call and having them call back. I felt that our conversations were very deep and meaningful.
My birds did well on gamebird crumbles, leftover vegetables from our dinner, and dried meal worms. They would also keep the cage free from any bugs that dared to intrude, which helped keep my outdoor aviary spotless and bug free. I would definitely own bobwhites again, but I would be sure to investigate more into game bird vaccinations or medicated feed because all of mine got sick at some point and either passed away or overcame it just to catch it again. Not an extremely healthy bird (or maybe they were bred poorly, who knows really). But overall, probably the friendliest quail breed I have owned, and my neighbors loved having a sense of living in the wild with next door to their unusual feathered neighbors (luckily their calls never bothered anyone and were not too loud)..
From JessBePaws Sep 4 2012 5:22PM
Bobwhites - maybe for meat/eggs, but not great pets
Bobwhite quails are lovely birds, but they are wild at heart, I think, and aren't that interactive.
My family purchased two male bobwhite quails as pets when we were young, and they were some of the least successful of the childhood pets.
While they were not unfriendly, they also made very few efforts at interaction, and always seemed somewhat discontent with their lot. Although we continued to provide them with the necessities of life, they soon became animals who were 'just there' rather than pets.
I am not familiar with bobwhites as game birds, or with their eggs (though I imagine the latter would be so small as to be hardly worth it?).
All of this being said, they were incredibly easy to maintain - they were hardy birds and inexpensive to feed and care for. In this context, they were excellent 'starter birds' for those who mightn't have a lot of experience raising them. I have heard they are also excellent at keeping the levels of small insects at bay, which seems a very desirable trait..
From mernst Sep 21 2014 5:44PM
I had Bobwhite Quail for a bit and did not enjoy them. I keep my animals for domestic and sustainability reasons. Bobwhite are far too wild, and have too many complex laws governing them to appeal to me. I stopped breeding them shortly after I started. They were certainly not the bird for me. Their temperament is horrid, they bite, and fly at the drop of a hat. I ended up eating all of them before I bred the first generation. Way too much trouble for what they provide..
From Travis A. Wooten May 13 2014 11:16PM