Gambel's Quail
Callipepla gambelii


Name Derivation:

Gambel's QuailCallipepla: from Greek kallipeplos meaning "beautifully adorned"; formed from kalos meaning "beautiful" and peplos meaning "a ceremonial robe".
gambelii: Latinization of "Gambel".
Gambel's: for William Gambel (1819? - 1849). Apparently a student of Thomas Nuttall's, Gambel traveled west in the early 1840s, exploring northern New Mexico, southern California, and Mexico. In 1848 he made a last trip to California from Independence, Missouri. During the trip he encountered many hardships. He transferred to another party that included Daniel Boone, which proved disastrous when they became trapped in snow. Only Gambel, Boone, and a few others survived the trek out, but Gambel soon contracted typhoid and died.
Quail: derived from the Middle Dutch quackel which means "quail".

Fig. 1. Gambel's Quail. Photo Credit: Glenn Vargas, © 2002 California Academy of Sciences.

Other names:

Desert Quail, Gambel's Partridge, Arizona Quail. Spanish: Codorniz de Gambel.


Class: Aves; Order: Galliformes; Family: Odontophoridae.

Key Identification Characters:

Male with black face, rufous crown, and curved head plume; grayish upper parts, buff belly with black central spot; female lacks bold face pattern, head plume short; buff belly lacks black spot. Length, 10"; wingspan, 14".


Southwestern United States southward into Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.
El Paso Region: common desert brushland resident, especially near the Rio Grande.


Mainly plant material (mostly seeds) including mesquite, deer vetch, Russian thistle, lupine; limited animal material includes beetles, grasshoppers, ants, true bugs, spiders.


Number of eggs/clutch: range about 8 to 20; egg: creamy white or buffy ground color, blotched with shades of brown and yellowish brown; 1.20" x 0.93"; nesting: hollow on ground under a bush.


Contributor: Scott M. Cutler, Centennial Museum Curator of Collections and Exhibits; Laboratory for Environmental Biology Curator of Ornithology.

Last update: 30 Jul 2009