This is an interlude in my TESC series.
But actually, there are no quail here
Two weeks ago I headed down to San Diego for an overnight to pick up the kids. I therefore had no time to actually do field work.
However, I did find quail, in particular, a male making the cow call (see below* for a discussion of the nomenclature for this call). He was sitting up high, as they are wont to do, and making the call–you can listen to another bird making the call at the link: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/flashPlayer.do?id=121975 What this means is that the breeding season is in full swing down there–which is not particularly surprising. The break up of the coveys tends to start in late February/early March on this site.
I do wish I was down there–really wish it. I will be down there this summer, though, and will at least have some time to get a sense of what is happening breeding-wise this year.
I also stumbled upon poison oak–but luckily, I seem to have not touched it, nor it me. I’ve made it through the 1 week waiting period with no lesions to speak of.
thanks be to whomever such thanks should be directed
*On the cow call’s nomenclature. While the term cow is a descriptive term for the vocalization and, therefore, not particularly precise, it’s functional term, advertisement call, implies that we have an actual handle on the function of the call. I do not think we do. Males make this call during a short window at the start of the breeding season, when individuals are associating in pairs (though not necessarily always the same pairs), females are laying, and birds are incubating (often the females but not necessarily always). Cow-calling males sit up on a high roost where they are visible and make this single-syllable call over and over. Often there will be several males spaced apart and making this call.
Advertisement suggests that this is the call males make to garner mates–however, not every male makes this call–most, in fact, do not seem to. Yet these males associate in pairs and even apparently (given my rough paternity analysis) sire offspring. Males who spend their time making this call are not spending their time associating with females. However, that does not mean they never associate with females–I’ve seem males jump down and sneak a copulation, though in at least one case, the female was not inclined and he fell off of her back when she stepped forward .
California quail seem to have a variety of tactics for making the most of the mating season. In my opinion, until we have a much clearer idea of the range of these tactics and the results (e.g. reproductive success) associated with them, it makes no sense to slap labels on the behaviors suggesting their functions are already defined.