Two days ago I posted an audio clip of a bird that I had never heard and it had baffled me to track it down.
The charming and wonderful and lovely Jemima Pett in the comments suggested a site that I had never heard of, Xeno-canto. I went there, made an account (it’s neat! it’s free! it’s full of bird geeks!!), uploaded my clip, and exactly as Jemima had predicted, in about three hours I had an answer. (Thanks a million, Daniel Parker!)
The unidentified bird is almost certainly a Northern Bobwhite Quail. Click on the “Sounds” tab there and listen to the first one, comparing it to mine. No doubt.
The odd thing is that the Northern Bobwhite Quail isn’t native to California, especially Southern California. In fact, they’re almost unknown anywhere west of Texas and Kansas.
That mystery was solved (probably) by Bruce Lagerquist of the Xeno-canto crew – he points out that anyone can by a couple dozen of Northern Bobwhite Quail chicks for less than $3 each. The most likely chain of events is that someone got some and this one (or maybe more) either escaped or were released.
It also answers another question – why couldn’t I see the mystery bird flying between the trees when it was obviously moving around while I was listening for it?
Because quail are ground birds, not tree perching birds. They can fly, but it was probably down running around or fluttering down on the ground in all of the pine needles, tall grass, and tumbleweeds on the hill below our house.
I’ve heard it again, off in the distance, in the last couple of days. I may grab a camera and go hunting. I have a better idea of what to look for now.
Thank you for the great suggestion, Jemima!