Valley Quail and Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Valley Quail and Sharp-shinned Hawk
Some forty Valley Quail (Lophortyx californica californica) frequent my garden on the outskirts of Oakland, attracted by the bird-food trays. A Sharp-shinned Hawk from the nearby hills has twice been seen to fly over the flock, and then perch in a neighboring tree. The “freezing” behavior exhibited by many of the quail under the circumstances was quite interesting.
A sudden high medley of alarm calls and whirring of wings was heard-an explosion of birds-and instant quiet-as the shadow of the Sharp-shin passed over the ground. Half the quail had reached the cover of tree, shrub, or brush-pile. But half of them had not, and these were scattered about, some alongside of a tuft of grass or other slight leafage, some wholly in the open. They were difficult to see at first glance, as they were motionless, “frozen” in a peculiar posture, half-squatting and with tail held at a high angle. They looked as if they were in readiness to spring into flight. The position of the tail was notably unusual.
The hawk did not attempt to molest them, though several seemed to be in his range of vision, of the eighteen that had come to a stop before reaching cover. They kept absolutely still for a full five minutes while the hawk remained. When he flew away, a few male quails moved their heads a little and clucked softly, but that was all for another five minutes or so. Then the birds slowly “unfroze” in a subdued, hesitating manner, the males first.
Herman De Fremery
Oakland, California, January 28, 1930