Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sad little quail

We seem to be finally breaking the back of winter (knock on wood). Temperatures are slowly climbing, and while the snow is still two feet thick on the ground, it's compressing and getting wetter.

But here's the thing: Despite warmer temps, conditions are still tough on wildlife since the ground is inaccessible. We purchased some wild birdseed and have been scattering it on our (protected) front porch, to the relief and appreciation of a lot of birds.

We've been seeing a lot of quail come through, in groups of males (who have the jaunty head feather). When temps were particularly bitter, they fluffed up and looked nearly spherical.

While they're as cute as can be, those fluffy feathers disguised starving conditions.

Quail are ground birds -- and the ground is buried.

I've seen a quail or two on the porch, taking advantage of the wild birdseed I scatter, but not as often as I thought they'd be there (blurry shot through a window, sorry).

So it was with sadness but no surprise when I went out one afternoon and saw this pathetic little bundle in the snow.

The winter conditions were just too much for it.

Then, about ten feet away, I noticed another.

Shortly after finding these two sad quail, I went to feed the cattle and scared up a couple of the remaining birds from the barn. One immediately went over to pay tribute to his fallen companion. It was heartbreaking.

I had to blink hard a couple times.

After he departed, I picked up the two dead birds and put them in the garbage can.

Sigh. It's been a long month of snow.


  1. Poor birds. It's been a tough winter.

  2. Throw out some seeds, maybe put out some suet

  3. Winter has been really tough on all wildlife this winter all over the country. I used to feed the birds every year throughout the winter months, but it got to the point that it got so expensive to feed regular birdseed daily that was something I had to stop doing. I then read a great article a few years back that had talked about how expensive seed had gotten, but to consider buying chicken scratch which has a lot of different type of seed and of course cracked corn as we feed our chickens during the winter months as a treat to help keep them stay warm along with their regular feed. So since I could buy a 50 lb. bag very cheaply I thought I'd give it a try. They love it and there is never any waste either. I can tell you that I get all kinds of birds that come to feed and I also throw some on the ground for the little birds that would have to stand back from the feeder where a lot of the larger birds more or less take over. I take one of those rubber low feed tubs and put warm water in it for them too. They really use that a lot as they feed. Just putting this out there for those who wish to help out the little birds during the rough winters that could help them get thru to spring time.

  4. Our winter started out more slowly - December and the first half of January were nice, then we posted the 5th snowiest and in the top 10 coldest February on record here. Few birds earlier but I am filling some feeders daily now. I have 4 thistle feeders, 3 suet, 1 sunflower hearts, 1 peanut and 2 mixed seed and nut. They do spread it around, but what the dog and barn cats don't clean up the hens get. Lately it has been too cold for the cats and hens, but a rooster pheasant shows up every day. (The birds are very savvy about the cats and I have feeders placed where there is no cover for the cats - they can't hide in striking range.) Plus we have owls and a young eagle hunting around here.

    Sad to see your quail. I have never seen one, but years ago did an embroidery of a pair for my aunt. They are beautiful birds. Natokadn

  5. Many years ago, I don't remember how many, we had a 10" snowstorm one day in May. Very wet, heavy snow. A couple days later it melted across my pastures and hayfields there in the flattened grass were hundreds of ground nesting birds that had been smothered on their nests. It was a terrible sight to look upon. I never realized until then just how many little birds there were out there. ---ken

  6. A quote I remember from some book about Africa but it's appropriate for Idaho. "Nature is neither good nor bad. It's just indifferent."


  7. We feed our quail and last year there were pathetic little cottontail bunnies, so we started feeding them handfuls of leafy alfalfa. This year we have added a grey tree squirrel. Never saw one in all the years we have lived here. Can't stand to see an animal starve. Chicken scratch is great and we buy birdseed all summer long to have it stocked up for winter.