What scares a quail?

This thread about chickens the birds and the term “chicken” meaning “coward” reminded me to ask a question I recently had about the quail that are all over the place where I live.

Why is it that quail run away in terror if they see me approaching on foot, but seem completely oblivious to my car driving toward them as they meander across the street? I was recently driving down the street in front of my house and had to come to a complete stop because a pair of adult quail were leading their little brood of babies across the street. It seemed that they didn’t even notice my car approaching, because they didn’t speed up at all, they just continued across the street at the same leisurely pace (and not because the babies were slow - those little things can haul ass when they want to). Compare that to my experience as a pedestrian - quail see me approaching and move like greased lightning to get away.

Do they just not process a moving vehicle as a threat?

I’m sure someone more knowledgeable will be along in a minute, but I remember reading that most prey species have the size range of the predators that are most dangerous to them hardwired into their instincts. Animals as large as a car generally don’t hunt things as small as quail, but human-sized and smaller creatures do.

Watch sometime to see how squirrels and birds will react to the appearance in their territory of a human versus a housecat. The difference is quite noticeable.

*** Ponder

In some cases it’s a matter of learning. If you will note there have been rats and mice, that are raised with kittens and the cat doesn’t recognize them as prey when she grows up.

I was watching a documentary on Clipperton and the birds will go nuts as the crabs try to harrass them so they get up and then the crab steals their eggs. But the researchers can walk right up to the bird and it doesn’t care. Since Clipperton is so isolated, the birds don’t know humans = bad, so they don’t care

Thanks, that makes sense :slight_smile: