Game Birds Losing Feathers

Winter is setting in, and you absolutely do not know what to do. Your quail and pheasants have lost feathers and you don’t want them to get chilled. What do you do?

A common problem in blue scale quail is fright. Similar to when a lizard drops its tail, it is a clever defense mechanism. When a predator grabs the bird, a bunch of feathers drop out, leaving a live quail and an annoyed predator. When someone picks up the blue scales the same happens. A good way to prevent this from happening is to only handle these birds for check-ups or emergencies. If you have extremely tame quail and this only happens rarely, it is okay to handle them.

Pheasants do not have large problems with picking. When it does happen, it is usually with ring-neck pheasants. These slightly aggressive birds will pick or attack other birds. This behavior is known for starting when they are still chicks and becoming more full-fledged (no pun intended) in juveniles and adults. They will even pick at pheasants of their own species. A good way to keep them from hurting flock members is keeping them separate from other pheasants (and other birds in general). If you have a flock of them, give them plenty of space, as well as something else to pick at, such as shoestrings or jingle balls made for cats or parrots.

If you keep your quail and pheasants with chickens, hang shoestrings from the wire or put toys or something inside to provide entertainment. On rare occasions chickens will severely maim their own species or other birds and have been known to engage in cannibalism. This is known to happen due to extreme boredom.

Mites are a very common problem. Remember to keep coops or cages clean at all times and put out dust baths occasionally for your birds.

Even if your birds do not pick it is a good idea to take them to the avian vet yearly. Make sure your birds stay healthy no matter what.

Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

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The Cyrtonyx montezumae, or as it is more commonly known, the Montezuma quail, is seven inches in length and is a small, shy, stocky bird with round wings. It also has a short, rounded brown tail and is basically a ground-dwelling bird. This bird is mainly a Mexican species and can be found along the entire length of the western side of the country. The northern range of its territory goes into southern Arizona and New Mexico where they can be found in many small groups scattered in different mountain ranges. There are also small groups scattered in West Texas.

The adult male Montezuma quail has an attractive black and white harlequin face patterning and a dark brown belly. The male has a reddish-brown crest that goes backwards and covers his entire nape. The side of his breast and his flanks are a grey color with white spots speckled all over and the main part of his breast being a rich brown. His back is a dark brown with many reddish-brown colored streaks painted on and his wing coverts are also a brown color but have solid black spots to break the brown. Although the male has such decorative and bold patterning he is still relatively hard to spot, let alone study and census.

The female quail has an overall duller brown plumage in comparison to the male, with dark upper parts. She has the same black and white face patterning as the male but it is a more mottled brown and reddish-brown color. Like the male she also has a reddish-brown colored crest that covers the nape and she is touched all over with reddy-white streaks. The Montezuma quail is unlike any other quail because of its plumage and head shape. The female is however similar to the female Northern Bobwhite but the Montezuma quail has a darker belly.

These quails are secretive birds and it takes one quite a while to spot them in the grassy oak woodlands in the American Southwest and western Mexico. These beautiful birds in America are under threat because of the extensive habitat degradation and destruction that has taken place as well as the increased hunting that is taking place. Conservation efforts are being made to ensure the survival of a number of species of quails, including the fascinating Montezuma Quail.

Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus)

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If you ever happen to see one, you will find that Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) are very attractive birds. Commonly found in densely wooded foothills and mountains along the West Coast of the US, these birds are somewhat unique in that they migrate up and down the slopes of the mountains according to the seasons. They are the only bird in the Quail family to perform some form of seasonal migration. The Mountain Quail is also known by several other names including the ‘Painted Quail’, the ‘Mountain Partridge’ and the ‘Plumed Quail’.

Generally speaking, Mountain Quail are fairly large (26-28 cm), distinctive birds. They have a long, straight head plume – sometimes called ‘top knots’ – as well as striking maroon throats set off by a white border. The female’s plume is shorter than the male’s. Their heads and breasts are grey while their bellies are chestnut and marked with bold white bars. The Mountain Quail’s underparts are a brownish-grey while their back and tail might be described as being olive-brown. Both sexes are similar in colour and size and the bird has a fairly chunky body with round wings and a short tail – features which are quite common for a ground-dwelling bird. The bird’s distinctive colouring makes it quite difficult to see in its natural habitat.

Every year between March and June, the Mountain Quail pair off for breeding purposes. The female lays 6-15 eggs in a shallow depression on the ground which may hatch 24-25 days later. The nest is usually concealed by surrounding vegetation and it is usually quite close to water. After only a few hours of breathing clean heart, the downy young leave the nest and are cared for by the parents who direct them to food instead of feeding it to them. The chicks seem to eat more insects than their adult counterparts who seem to prefer plant matter as a means of sustenance. As they mature, Mountain Quail young may congregate in large groups of up to 20 birds.

Though Mountain Quails are capable of moving quickly through the undergrowth, they are a favourite amongst quail hunters and their numbers have decreased dramatically over the past fifty years. However it would seem that this is mainly due to lost of habitat from human development and not from hunting. Hunting of this bird has been banned in places such as Idaho and eastern Oregon and while the bird is not considered to be endangered, efforts have been made to boost Mountain Quail numbers in certain parts of the country.

Entertaining Button Quails are a Delight to Keep

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Button quail owners agree that these small, cute, relatively quiet little birds make wonderful pets. Button quails are very active and their antics can provide hours of amusement. Although not easily tamed, with patience on behalf of the human caretaker, button quails do respond positively to love and attention.

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