Colinus virginianus [kol' I
nuhs ver jin' E an nuhs]
The bobwhite is a relatively
small game bird, weighing approximately 5-6
ounces, and averaging 8-10 inches in length, with
a 3.5-4.7- inch wingspan. It has rounded wings
and square tail. Adult males are distinguished
from females by their white facial stripes and
throat and sharply contrasting black markings on
the feathers. There are over a dozen subspecies,
differentiated by region, with some differences
in overall coloration between them.
The bobwhite ranges from
southeastern Ontario into Central America, with
the highest population densities being found in
the eastern United States and Mexico. There are
also populations in Cuba, and disparate
populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and
northwestern Mexcio. In forest habitats bobwhites
have a preference for early successional
vegetation zones created by fire, agriculture
and/or timber-harvesting. In rangeland habitats
they live in both early and later successional
vegetation. In either case the habitat must
contain a diversity of invertebrates, seeds and
herbaceous plants, and must have an abundance of
cover for protection from predators and weather.
Once thought to be strictly
monogamous, it is now known that both male and
female bobwhites are capable of incubating and
raising broods with more than one mate during any
given breeding season. Breeding season runs from
February into October, depending on region.
Although bobwhites normally only breed once a
year, up to three broods may be raised in any one
season. The nest, which is built by both sexes,
consists of a saucer-shaped, softball-sized
depression in the ground lined with dead grasses.
Six or more pure white eggs are laid per clutch,
and are incubated by both parents for about 23
days. Hatchlings are able to walk about and
follow their parents almost immediately, and
fledge at about 14 days. If the nest is
threatened, one parent typically stays with the
hatchlings while the other engages in distractive
displays in hopes of luring the threat away from
the nest. Nests that are destroyed before
hatching are usually rebuilt, but broods lost
after hatching are usually not replaced.
Although bobwhites can live up
to 6 years in the wild, fewer than 15% of any
given population typically live past their first
Beginning in the late summer,
bobwhites form into coveys of parents, offspring
and unsuccessful breeding pairs. The coveys
become fluid by autumn, and family groups have
dispersed by late autumn or early winter.
Bobwhites produce a variety of
calls to direct covey movements and warn of
danger, including the familiar
"bob-white" call which gives the bird
Bobwhites are most active
during the early morning and late afternoon
hours. They spend most of their time on the
ground, but can fly short distances if necessary.
typically spend their entire lives in one place.
Bobwhites feed primarily on
seeds, supplemented by green leafy material,
fruits, and invertebrates.
genus & species Gallus gallus
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Colinus_virginianus/
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