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June 17: Mountain Quail encounter at Palomar Mountain

Yesterday I parked at Doane Pond and walked first south 1/2 mile to Thundering Spring. Then hiked the opposite direction 1 mile to the Weir Trail. After 12 years I was trying out a new camera (Canon 7D MRKII). Wow, it takes sharp bird action pictures in the dark (at least compared to my old XTi)!


In over 45 years of birding in the West I have rarely had decent looks at Mountain Quail. Usually I hear them only, their “Quark!” call echoing off some canyon. Less frequently I just get a brief look as they burst from underfoot on some brushy trail with the rusty under tail contrasting with the gray upper tail as they fly away. I’ve rarely encountered them with chicks, in which case I get a more prolonged look as they sneak and crawl away through the brush.


Which brings me to yesterday’s adventure. I rounded the trail hearing a scrub jay scolding. A Mountain Quail stood it’s ground in the middle of the trail and would not let me pass! It and the mate (they look very similar) were making a grating whine. They may have had chicks nearby, but I never saw or heard any. Both birds walked around me and into heavier brush, still making the odd noise, but stayed in the area. I was able to get several photos, but didn’t stay long. After about 20 minutes I returned on the same trail and all was quiet.


I’ve seen pheasants attack people. And I’ve seen photos of Ruffed Grouse attacking people or vehicles, but find no reference to this aggressive behavior for quail.


eBird lists with lots of photos:

Doane Pond to Thundering Spring:


Doane Pond to Weir Trail:


Site guide:


Greg Gillson




Greg Gillson
Escondido, California
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports