Saturday, February 18, 2006

Quail


In the wake of last weekend's events, it is not surprising that everyone and their brother had something to say about the shooting. I certainly wish someone would put together a linkfest of the best blog responses to the events of last Saturday and the whole Mediafest that followed.

I saw posts and comments by hunters, physicians, cops, lawyers, forensic experts, media analysts, professional journalists, political pundits, Friends of Bill, Friends of Dick, George and Harry, conspiracy theorists, and of course, Wingnut apologists. I felt there was absolutely nothing I could add to that avalanche that wasn't said already by someone somehere online. But then I noticed that nobody has paid attention to the main victims of the Cheney expedition, the victims of the mass killing that happened that day. After all, Harry survived while hundreds died - that is, hundreds of quail.

In many blog posts that related to the type of hunting involved, it was difficult to figure out if the writer was talking about the last week's hunt in Texas or the Pennsylvania hunt two years ago. In 2004, what Cheney and others hunted were
Ring-necked Pheasants :














and Mallard Ducks.













Last week, apparent target were quail. I have not seen any clarification of whic type of quail it was, but it is 99.9% certain that they were hunting Bobwhite Quail. That is the only North American species of quail that normally inhabits Texas (are those Republican quail?). It is also the only species of quail that is intensely bred in captivity, primarily for release for hunting (the tiny Button Quail is bred as a house pet and the Japanese quail is bred for meat and eggs, as well as a laboratory animal).

Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) is an Animal, a Chordate, a Vertebrate and a Bird. It belongs to order Galliformes which also contains such familiar species as

Chicken
















Black Grouse















Guinea-fowl







Turkey

















and Peacock:










In most resources I have seen (online and books), the genus Colinus is placed in the family Phasianidae. I was surprised to see Wikipedia dissenting. I am assuming that I am the one behind the times and have not noticed the reclassification that must have happened relatively recently. Wikipedia places the Bobwhite quail in the family Odontophoridae, together with all the other New World quails, and separated from Phasianidae that now apparently contains only Old World Quails. Here are some other species of quails and relatives:

Chukar Partridge
















California Quail











Gambel's Quail













Button Quail











Scaled Quail









Mountain Quail










Potatoe Quail (also a Vice President)












You can find more information about the Bobwhite Quail here, here and here. Here are some pictures of the Bobwhite, just so you can see what Cheney was shooting at, at least most of the time:





















































Aren't they beuatiful when they are alive and free?




Here are some young ones in a rearing pen.

Waiting to be released to be hunted by their cousins, the chicken-hawks:








Why am I interested? Because my online handle is Coturnix, another genus of Old World quail, containing, among others, Chinese Quail, European Migratory (or 'Common') Quail and Asian Migratory (or 'Japanese') Quail. Japanese quail is the animal I use in my laboratory research.

Japanese Quail

















Common Quail:











The U.S. government has tried for a couple of decades to stock our forests with Japanese quail (which are, by the way, about half the size of Bobwhites) for hunting, but had to abandon the project in early 1980s as they could never find any of the released animals again. The official report guesses they were all eaten by predators to which they are not used to, but it does not mention that this is the only long-distant migrant in the whole Order of Gallinaceous birds - even if a few of them survived the predators, they likely flew away to Cuba or CostaRica or some such nice tropical place in the winter and never came back.

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