Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herding Frankenquail

My plan to encourage Barry to cook more, especially for me, is working; he invited me over for dinner on Sunday night, and served baby bell peppers stuffed with ground lamb, rice, and onions – really yummy.  Before we were able to eat, though, we had to engage in a little quail wrangling.

Ever since Barry moved into his present house, he’s been throwing out stale bread and crackers for the birds and bunnies in his backyard.  This worked well and provided him with a lot of free entertainment until the last couple of weeks, when the latest batches of baby quail started hatching.  Some of the parent quail are apparently at their wits’ end as to how to feed all these hungry little mouths, and they’ve started pecking on Barry’s glass patio door to demand more crumbs, leading him to announce, “I’ve created Frankenquail!”

Anyway, Sunday evening he and I wandered out onto the back patio before dinner, and while we were returning to the house one of the quail chicks (a little smaller than a ping-pong ball with legs) skittered inside with us and took refuge under the kitchen stove.

I immediately suggested moving the stove but Barry was afraid that the stove 1) was too heavy for us to move without injury to ourselves, and 2) would squish the quail as well.  After a quarter of an hour of hand-wringing, however, he decided that he would worry all night if he just left the bird there – and who knows where it would have ended up if it had come out later on its own? – so we dragged the stove away from the wall and herded the chick into a plastic pitcher.  I rushed it outside and deposited it under a sheltering bush.  A few minutes later I saw it run at top speed (its legs only a blur) in the direction its family had previously taken.

I hope he (or she) caught up with the rest of the brood.  I think it was pretty careless of the parent quail to move on without one of their children.  Still, I can understand their problem – herding 10 or so clueless but fast-moving quail chicks must be even worse than trying to herd cats.  Plus, quail apparently don’t actually like living in groups; the temptation to lose at least some of the kids may occasionally be pretty strong:

"The Quail is generally a solitary animal meaning they don’t really care for the company of other birds.  Sometimes if this bird is in a gregarious mood then they will socialize with one other Quail.  With that said, everything changes once mating season rolls around.  During this time, different family groups will come together and form flocks as large as 100 individuals.  I can just imagine how cranky these introvert birds are after a few days with such a large flock.” ~Wild Facts

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