Bobwhites – Color Variations

The Birdfreak Team was out birding this morning at Severson Dells, going along with one of our favorite naturalists, local birder Phil Schwabb. He was giving a guided hike, and it was apparant that the other people on the hike were newby birders. It is always great to see new birders and these bird walks are great for helping them out.

Severson Dells, gorgeous at any time of the year

I am far from being an expert birder and it is the enjoyment of birding, not becoming an expert, that keeps me into birding. I love learning new things, and it is the learning that makes it so fun.

I won’t list all the species we saw here, but one stood out. Near departure of Severson Dells, SnowyOwl’s gang discovered an apparent injured bird. Upon further investigation, the bird was determined to be a Northern Bobwhite. {We actually found out later that the bird was a Coturnix (Japanese) Quail}.

Northern Bobwhite – Turned out to be a Coturnix (Japanese) Quail

The bird was actually not injured but was too close to the road (not a busy road) but the exposure would have made him an easy target for a predator. So we nudged him into a short flight and a “quailish walk” and he made it into cover. That’s when we discovered that there were several more.

Now, we have never seen Bobwhites that were golden brown or white, so there is some confusion of whether these are farm birds or something. There were numerous Bobwhites flying and we confirmed the calls as correct, but have not found any data on color variations.

It is unlikely that they were “dumped” at the preserve, but there are farms in the area. Whatever the origin of these Bobwhites, it was a really cool ending to a beautiful, and cold, morning at Severson Dells.


Thanks to the comments on this issue, I searched for Coturnix (or Japanese) Quail and found a site about them. What I was calling Bobwhites are actually Coturnix Quail or some sort of farm variation of them. There were Bobwhites calling in the area and we will be in contact with the naturalists at Severson Dells to see if any more weird quailish birds show up.

We hope the birds weren’t dumped intentionally but just happened to wander from a farm.

7 thoughts on “Bobwhites – Color Variations

  1. Nice blog – found you through your Flickr account. Looking forward to seeing more of what you see. BTW, very cool about the white bobwhite – a very interesting find.

  2. Rick – we kinda figured since there was no real data on them. There are some wild ones around the area. But then again, aren’t most of these game birds introduced? Ring-necked Pheasants aren’t native? Nor Gray Partridges or Chukars, or others.
    What determines “wild” or not? A lot of people post sightings about seeing Gray Partridges in northern Illinois but the origin seems suspect.

  3. Those color variations are something I’ve only seen in Coturnix Quail, Pard. The hatcheries may be breeding for sports. Whatever their origins they’re beautiful birds and I hope they survive the weather you’re having up there.

  4. Cool, thanks BirdAdvocate. I looked up Coturnix Quail and it’s a perfect match. I think I’m going to investigate where they came from. Thanks everyone, this was a real odd find at a nature preserve. If they make it through the cold weather, I wonder if they can (or will) breed with the Bobwhites in the area.

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