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"The parrot utters one cry, the quail another."
~ Latin Proverb
Attention Birdwatchers! Have you ever heard quail calls? Quails have an interesting version of "tweet tweet". Their song is not very loud but very distinctive, a thin ‘sip sip sip’ sound, also described as ‘wet-me-lips’, repeated several times. California quail, in contrast, with their fancy black plume and white vest, often make a particular chirp when searching for seeds and berries which sounds like “chi-ca-go, chi-ca-go"! Ironically, though the word "quail" means to "shrink in fear" and "cower", the small quail was a symbol of courage and victory in battle in many different cultures. The term 'quail' has also been one of endearment, and the bird was sometimes given as a gift from one lover to another. Quail have been bred domestically for over 4,000 years! The collective noun for a group of quail is a flock, bevy, or covey. The Covey of Quail design is intended to be reminiscent of long fall days in the field, a loyal dog by one’s side, the knowledgeable gamekeeper, and the flush of birds-earth tones! 🎶 🪶
Easily recognized for the black floppy feathers that stick out of their heads, the quail is a relatively small bird that thrives in forests and woodlands in various parts of the world.
Quails appear in many Native American culture legends including this Mayan one, reproduced here from Yucatán Today, which explains the quail's reluctance to fly:
"In the old days, when the animals had just finished forming themselves, the quail (Bech) was the favorite bird of the gods. It was adored for its magnificent plumage, its flirty plume on its haughty head, and it was allowed to build its nests in the hollows of the trees, to protect its young from the traps of both wild animals and hunters. That is why its numbers grew so quickly.
Any other living thing would have been very grateful for those privileges; but the quail, blinded in its egoism, wasn’t satisfied. In its secret desire, it cherished the hope that one day it would possess the whole world, in which only it would live with its numerous offspring.
On one occasion, the good-natured Great Spirit had a desire to visit the earth, longing to contemplate once more the world it had helped to create. So, he invited Yaa-Kin, the prince of the sun, to accompany him on the trip, and, taking human form, he descended to earth.
The news of this visit caused Box-Buc, the prince of darkness, to become black with envy. And he swore to get his revenge by destroying the travelers’ plans.
With that in mind, he sent his spies to follow the trail of the visitors, and he sat on his ebony throne waiting for the results of his plotting.
However, the moment the visitors entered the forest, the good genies of the mountain noticed the presence of the spies and swore to protect their guests.
Frustrated by the constant failures of their plans, the spies decided to question the birds, sweetening their harsh and unpleasant voices as much as possible.
Nevertheless, with those false voices, they were unable to trick the astute little birds. And everyone refused to give them any information whatsoever, except Bech, who had ambitions for her own world.
The selfish quail gave secret instructions to her offspring. And when the divine visitors came near, the numerous quail family members rose up in flight, creating a great clamor, which caused the travelers to stop and investigate, which allowed the spies to locate them.
The Great Spirit felt a profound pain when he realized the perverse strategy of Box-Buc; but when he realized that the informer was the quail—the very one he had loved so much—tears of disappointment filled his eyes, and he pronounced: “Traitor Bech, from today onward, you and yours will remail at the mercy of the wild animals and the hunters; you will live on the ground for all time.
For more on this beautiful photo, click the photo of a California Quail Covey by Kathleen Bishop!