I don’t like to skip out on the blog for a week, but we kicked off Thanksgiving weekend with a drive along the Pacific . . . and an accidental passenger, a Japanese Quail, sitting on the backseat. In other words, it’s been a normally abnormal week at my end. I’m gradually accepting the fact that “normalcy” is a thing of my past. So, if I’m not going to be normal anyway, I might as well have a quail in the backseat.
Transporting a Quail
There are many ways to transport a bird. Paper bags and cardboard carriers happen to be the easiest vessels to find in a wildlife hospital. A bag breathes, it’s dark, and you can fold it for storage. I have one stashed in my backpack when I’m hiking in case an emergency arises — like the baby rabbit emergency we had on one 100-degree day in Southern California.
You’ll notice the screened window in this bag, held in place by scotch tape — and the goofy little face peering out. This particular quail wasn’t entirely comfortable in the dark. A room with a view was her style. She was brought in a shoebox with holes cut in the top. A person at the hospital noticed her sticking up out of the box like a periscope, so — she got window in her paper-bag traveler.
Japanese Quail are known for shooting upward like missiles, and they can even kill themselves by hitting their noggins on hard surfaces. A Japanese Quail can shoot up and out through a space in the bag that’s narrower than my arm.
We had her as a case of mistaken identity . . . Mikiko, Part II. She’s not a California Quail but someone thought she was, and brought her into the wildlife hospital late in our evening shift. She had few positive-outcome options. The only viable one seemed to be me and Hugh transporting her to a shelter that takes Japanese Quail.
No Room at the [Quail] Inn
Enter the glitch. “Wait, did you say you found her in the East Bay?” We knew “yes” wasn’t the right answer. This quail just happened to be from the wrong county, in the wrong month. A recent change of policy meant our girl couldn’t spend the night in a humane shelter system already burdened with too many animals from the right county. So she (and we) were refused at the inn, turned away bag in hand, a sadly appropriate holiday tale. Welcome to our Thanksgiving.
We had plans to be in the Sunset (San Francisco) and we didn’t have time to turn back. The upside: This Japanese Quail got to travel from the plains, across bridges, to the ocean — to see 30-foot swells, kitesurfers, and ravens leaping with joy into the headwinds. She even got some water from a kind soul at The Pizza Place. We named her “Gidget” in homage to surfer girls.
The down side: we needed to find her a home right away, with other quail. She was more demur than the male quail Mikiko, uttering only pipsqueaks and not the proud crow Mikiko issued at sunrise. Her disposition could only be described as sweet and gentle. We didn’t know what adventures, joys and sorrows her quail eyes had seen. The antidote was more quail people and a loving home where she could be her quail self in peace.
Her vet exam showed tattered and missing tail feathers as well as new feathers coming in around the preening gland. It was a near miss, by what or whom we will never know, possibly a cat or wild predator. She’s just one lucky bird. Possibly the luckiest bird we’ve met so far. Because . . .
. . . after our beach drive with Gidget, we got news that a lovely person — a miracle person, in fact — is adopting ten abandoned Japanese Quail from a local shelter and she agreed to take Gidget with her bunch. Not only will Gidget be returning to her proper world among quail people, within a few months she and her mates will have a brand new quail habitat with all of the things quail love: feed, seed and dust baths. Thank you, miracle quail person.
Japanese Quail Gone Wild
When domestic birds like Gidget are rescued, we’re never sure how they ended up in dire straits. Japanese Quail are raised for eggs, for meat, sometimes as pets. They’re also used for hunting exercises. The odds of having a good life as a Japanese Quail are not high. So often, people buy and release birds like Gidget from live bird vendors where their unhappy fate is sealed. I’ve seen some horrors in live-food markets and understand the sentiments that drive people to do this. At the same time, as our vet said, a released domestic animal (bird, rabbit) doesn’t become free in the wild. It becomes food. These animals have no way to fend for or defend themselves. The same is true of those gorgeous white King Pigeons often found injured and battered on the streets after a rescuer releases them from the food market. Many of these animals are accustomed to humans and make great companions (in the right, bird-friendly setting, of course). . . which is a more fair way to exercise an act of conscience. Most animals come around from even the most abusive backgrounds, with a bit of love and patience.