The Quail Diaries: Seeking The Origin of Callipepla
Setting traps
Quail print
In the field
In the field
Juvenile California quail
Jennifer in the field
Limited edition hand-embroidered Elegant Quail artwork
Trading cards!
About the project

What you need to know

Climate variation and habitat loss are changing our environment. Species such as the four members of the Callipepla Quail genus, the California, Gambel's, Scaled and Elegant Quail, will either adjust to these changes or go extinct. To predict how these species might respond to change we seek to use current distribution and historical reconstruction to understand how each species responds to novelty in their habitat.

Three of these four species, the California, Gambel's and Scaled Quail, are often encountered in the gardens of western and southwestern United States. The fourth member is the reclusive golden crested Elegant Quail, found only in northwestern mainland Mexico. Though they are close cousins, these species differ in their behavior and their ability to be introduced to new ranges. This indicates that they differ drastically in how they interact with their environment; in particular, in how they respond to changes in their environment.

We will reconstruct the changes in geographic distribution of each of these four species over the past 100-200 years. To do this, we use data from museum specimen and archival records, data collected from field populations, and information gathered from the online citizen science database, Ebird. We will use sophisticated niche-modeling techniques to analyze the information about vegetation and climate and create a map of the ecology of the regions inhabited by Callipepla Quail. This map of will tell us how Callipepla Quail species occurrence changes as the ecology changes.

Why this matters

To manage and protect species we need to understand why some are more likely to survive and others go extinct when the environment changes. The California Quail may be more tolerant of novel environments than the other three species of Callipepla; populations of California Quail have successfully been introduced to regions across the world from the big island of Hawaii to central Chile, from Corsica to Australia. In studying the Callipepla, we hope to tease apart the evolutionary roots of behavior or physiology that might allow species to persist in the face of novelty or change.

While California and Gambel’s Quail populations appear stable, the Scaled Quail are declining and we do not know whether the Elegant Quail populations are declining or growing. This project will provide the basic information we need to follow Elegant Quail population sizes and to gain insight into the differences among all four species. By mapping past and present ranges we will start to understand how these close cousins differ in their ability to survive in novel habitats. This information will provide the means to predict how vulnerable each Callipepla species is to environmental variation such as habitat destruction or climate change. It will also provide some of the tools needed to understand how well species other than the Callipepla will survive environmental change.

What your money can do

Your money will support the travel to the field to map the edges of current distributions from Northwest Mexico through Southern British Columbia Canada. This support will also allow for travel to natural history collections including UC Berkeley, Louisiana State University, University of Washington, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, San Diego Natural History Museum and Occidental College to explore the collections and archives to determine past distributions.

Potential discoveries

We hope to discover some of the root patterns determining whether species survive or go extinct when the environment changes. Specifically, we aim to learn whether Callipepla Quail species differ in whether they survive or go extinct in novel habitats. We suspect that California Quail tend to more readily adjust than the other species of Callipepla, the Gambel’s, Scaled and Elegant Quail. The analytical techniques we will employ have uncovered the effect of climate change over relatively long periods of time on a large diversity of species from birds across California to the alpine plants of Europe. These techniques also facilitate the use of satellite information to trace the evolution of Mexican Jays. In the Callipepla Quail we have the unique opportunity to combine this analysis with our long term behavioral research to uncover the roots of response to habitat change.


Jennifer Calkins is currently a Visiting and Resource Professor at The Evergreen State College. She started studying Callipepla Quail in the 1990s when she was working on her PhD in Biological Science at UC Irvine. She remained captivated by the Quail even after completing her doctorate and earning an MFA in Creative Writing. Since that time she has approached studying the Quail through field studies, genomic research and literary exploration.

She is conducting this research with the help of Dr. Jennifer Gee, an expert in the biology of this group of Quail and Drs. John McCormack and Amanda Zellmer, researchers with extensive experience conducting niche analysis of closely related vertebrate species.

Additional Links

Thursday August 02, 2012

We've been back in Seattle for 2 weeks after a very interesting trip into the field with Elegant quail.   We are now analyzing our data, writing up the results AND, most importantly, preparing to send you your rewards--we just need a little information from you.  Head to and answer the appropriate question/s.  Your rewards will be on their way within the next few weeks.  

If you want to read about the adventure, head to and check out our recent entries, El País de los Cholís.  

Hope your summer is splendid so far.

Monday July 02, 2012

We are in the Sonora!--I'm down here with three amazing Evergreen students.  We've gotten a sense of the distribution of Elegant Quail on the ranch and a rough idea of their daily time budgets and have set up traps across the ranch for banding and sampling purposes.  We are also recording calls and taking any other sorts of basic natural history data we can.  The first blog post from Mexico will be up soon!


Thank you so much

Monday June 18, 2012

Dear Supporters,

Thank you so much for your pledges and for making this a success!  School is over and evaluations are in; we are preparing to leave for Mexico in a week!  We've just started a blog series dedicated to this trip--you can head to  The Quail Diaries blog to read the posts.

In the meantime, we've started gathering Ebird and museum collection data.  Intriguingly, the Evergreen Natural History Collection includes one Callipepla squamata, or Scaled Quail--the Callipepla with the most eastern distribution of the genus.  There are records, however, of introductions to central Washington, none of which resulted in established populations.

We will be periodically posting updates here; however, to ensure you've got the latest Quail Diaries information, sign up at The Quail Diaries for email updates, follow The Quail Diaries on Twitter and/or like The Quail Diaries on Facebook.

Finally, we will shortly be sending a survey out to get information from you such as t-shirt size and address so that we can send you your rewards!  

Con mucho gusto



Wednesday June 06, 2012

Dear Gracious Supporters--


Thank you all for helping us meet and exceed our goal!  We are busy starting our data collection for all four species--the work should be in full swing by mid summer.  We are also prepping for our upcoming  trip to Mexico where we will continue to work specifically on Elegant Quail distribution and behavior.  We've three fantastic and eager Evergreen undergraduates involved--all three have experience doing research in Mexico and all three work in the Evergreen Natural History Collections.  

We are hoping to get your prizes out before we leave for Mexico--however, if we don't, they'll be in the mail upon our return from the field in July.  We'll be posting at The Quail Diaries while we are down there and we'll update you so you can follow our progress in the field.



Wednesday May 23, 2012

Thankyou backers!  With 2 weeks to spare, we are within $100.00 of our goal! 

One important aspect of this project that your money will help support is the work being conducted by our three amazing undergraduate students.  These students are seniors at The Evergreen State College and have amassed considerable experience in the field through ornithology classes and a field season in Navopatia Mexico (SE of Alamos).  One is a Fellow at the TESC's Natural History Museum and one has experience analyzing GIS data.  We are thrilled to have them involved with the project and excited to help them solidify their analytical and field experience.  Thank you for helping make this possible!


Wednesday May 16, 2012

Received an interesting email today--a male California Quail that stuck around after the female with whom he was associating crashed into a window and died.  He may have tried copulating with is unclear, but his breast was stained with her blood when he returned the next day to call in the same place her body had been.  

This is an anecdote--but it raises interesting questions.  We rarely find dead Quail.  If they've died they've usually been killed (and then most of their bodies consumed) by predators.  While we may not know exactly what this particular male was doing, this anecdote contributes to  how we approach our asking about the nature and effect of social bonding in this species--in pairs, families and coveys.

Thankyou for your help--it makes this work possible.

Thursday April 26, 2012
Backer only update
Tuesday April 24, 2012

We've hit the halfway mark!!  Thank you so much supporters for getting us this far!  We've 43 days to go and your help gives us the momentum we need to really move!



Sunday April 15, 2012
Backer only update
Thursday April 12, 2012

Just a quick note to thank you all so much for pushing us over the 25% mark!  

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Thank you supporters for your help getting this project going--you are the avant garde!

We've a new blog post up at about the federal funding crisis with a bit of poetry for good measure.  

But more importantly, it is spring and the California Quail are undertaking the process of producing little California Quail (up to 25 eggs in one nest!)  To hear Quail in spring and early summer follow this link to audio of cow calling, some squills (in the background) and rally calls.

blog comments powered by Disqus
This project was successful!
$1 +
The gratitude of Callipepla researchers worldwide and a direct link to our work.
$4 +
The Quail Diaries Postcard: A postcard appreciation with the iconic Quail Diaries image of a female California Quail calling.
$15 +
Postcard & 4 Trading Cards: A postcard and a trading card for each of the four species of Callipepla. These trading cards allow you to have all the basic Quail information at your fingertips.
$35 +
Quail Diaries T-Shirt: The Quail t-shirt of choice. Simple black and white line drawing of an Elegant Quail makes a bold statement.
$50 +
T-Shirt & 4 Trading Cards: The most basic supplies to equip oneself for Quail adventures.
$75 +
T-Shirt & Limited Edition 8x10 Print: Prints are field images taken in California, Sonora, Mexico and other future locales. Your choice of when (past or future research) and what (Quail or quail habitat).
$200 +
4 BACKERS SOLD OUT (0 of 2 remaining)
T-shirt, Trading Cards & Framed Hand-Embroidered Quail Artwork: Very limited, very lovely. Commissioned for The Quail Diaries from an a local Alamos, Sonora artist the artwork features a male Elegant Quail on the move. The frame is also hand-painted.
$500 +
T-Shirt, Trading Cards, Map & Field Experience: Go into the field with the Quail--Sonora, Baja, California, New Mexico, Arizona. Experience the joy and trials as we encounter, trap, band and observe the birds. (Does not include cost of travel to field site)
and 19 others