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Quail-like bird in Central Texas. No pictures. (1 Viewer)

Tired

Well-known member
United States
I saw a bird today while driving through a rural section of pasture land. There's a lot of long grass in the area, and some patches of relatively small trees. It had the build of a bobwhite or other wild quail, and was about as large as I think those are. It was perched on a low tree branch, and flew away from the car when we got close. It had relatively short, blunt wings and seemed to fly differently than other birds, though I'm not sure of the right terms to describe it. Its tail looked short and seemed to be widely fanned. It flew low over the long grass, and I lost sight of it before seeing if it dove into the grass or landed elsewhere.
My impression of its color was a mottled brown and white, possibly with some gray. The main thing that caught my attention was that its tail had two roughly triangle-shaped patches of white visible when it flew. It looked like the white would probably be hidden when the bird was perched.
I've looked at pictures of the four quail native to Texas, and I don't see any of them having those white triangles. I'm certain I saw them- I remember thinking they would make this easy to ID, since I just had to find a quail-shaped bird with those patches.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? It's possible it was an escaped or released game bird of some sort.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I saw a bird today while driving through a rural section of pasture land. There's a lot of long grass in the area, and some patches of relatively small trees. It had the build of a bobwhite or other wild quail, and was about as large as I think those are. It was perched on a low tree branch, and flew away from the car when we got close. It had relatively short, blunt wings and seemed to fly differently than other birds, though I'm not sure of the right terms to describe it. Its tail looked short and seemed to be widely fanned. It flew low over the long grass, and I lost sight of it before seeing if it dove into the grass or landed elsewhere.
My impression of its color was a mottled brown and white, possibly with some gray. The main thing that caught my attention was that its tail had two roughly triangle-shaped patches of white visible when it flew. It looked like the white would probably be hidden when the bird was perched.
I've looked at pictures of the four quail native to Texas, and I don't see any of them having those white triangles. I'm certain I saw them- I remember thinking they would make this easy to ID, since I just had to find a quail-shaped bird with those patches.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? It's possible it was an escaped or released game bird of some sort.
I'm not v familiar with the game birds of your area. However, might it be a common gallinule? If the habitat is damp or near water it might be this species. Young birds are quite brownish and it does have the white triangles you noted.
 

Tired

Well-known member
United States
I have no idea if there was any water nearby. The juvenile gallinules do look similar, but I don't think the triangles are quite right. I'll keep them in the 'maybe' pile.
Crude mockup of how the tail looked. I could only see the top of the tail, I don't know what the underside was like. It did have some amount of texture on the non-white areas, this is just an approximation of the triangles.
1611706161335.png
 

D Halas

Well-known member
A Meadowlark, maybe? They have white outer tail feathers that are fanned out in flight, the wings are relatively short, and they're not far off in size from a Bobwhite.
 

AlexC

Aves en Los Ángeles
Opus Editor
Supporter
A Meadowlark, maybe? They have white outer tail feathers that are fanned out in flight, the wings are relatively short, and they're not far off in size from a Bobwhite.
Agree - this description sounded very much like a meadowlark in flight to me (central Texas has both Eastern and Western species). The yellow and black breast pattern is often obscured or not visible depending on time of year (non-breeding plumage) or angle of the view. But specifically the white outer tail feathers, behavior of going from a tree branch to land in a field. The habitat matches as well. Meadowlarks often appear bulky and short-winged in flight and size can always be misleading, especially in flight.

Gallinule going from a tree branch to a field doesn't seem likely, the color pattern doesn't match with the description, not to mention significantly less likely in Central Texas.
 

Tired

Well-known member
United States
I looked up some pictures of meadowlarks, and yes, that's it! I saw it first in a shadow, then flying away from me, so I'm not surprised I didn't notice any yellow it might have had. But the body shape and size are right, the overall coloration is right, the white on the tail is there, and a clip I found of one in flight moves like the bird I saw. It would also explain what it was doing on a branch- I don't think quail normally sit on branches.

Looks like differentiating between Eastern and Western meadowlarks is based either on tiny visual details, or the song, so I have no idea which I saw. I guess I'll put them on the list of birds to get a better look at and a nice picture of.
 

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