April 22 • 06:23 AM

Exotic visitor stops in Imlay

October 10, 2007
IMLAY CITY — When Stan and Shareyn Walker welcomed their unexpected guest from California last Thursday, they didn't ask 'how was your flight?'

They didn't have to. The exotic stranger just showed up in their yard, and proceeded to announce his arrival in a rather high pitched voice. And now they're temporary foster parents to a Gambel's quail, who has taken up residence at their Handley Street home.

The fancy, gray and copper colored bird is an inhabitant of the desert regions of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Sonora. With its distinctive plumage atop its black head, Stan Walker says the bird was easy to spot. But it was its distinctive call that first drew Stan's attention.

"I don't hear so good but I hear low pitched sounds and when I was sitting outside I heard this call and thought 'what the heck is that?'" Stan says.

Following the sound, Stan looked up at the roof of his garage and saw the exotic looking bird.

Distinctive plume on head helps identify this Gambel’s quail, native to the west. The bird has become a fixture in Stan and Shareyn Walker’s yard. photo by Catherine Minolli.

About a foot long with a wingspan of 14-16 inches, the gambel's quail may not have flown from California to Imlay City, but it did have an interesting journey to the Walkers' home.

"A woman named Pam who lives on Main Street was walking her dog and the bird followed her," Shareyn says. "It's stayed around ever since."

Pam was surprised by her temporary companion, and concerned enough to stop by the Walkers on Friday with a bag of mixed fruit and nut bird seed. She was too shy to hang around for the reporter, Shareyn says, though she asked Pam to stick around.

The bird, which Shareyn has taken to calling 'Cal,' seems somewhat tame—although its constant call may indicate some nervousness about its unfamiliar surroundings.

The Walkers have been able to get within a few feet of 'Cal' and it's not at all afraid of their little black dog.

According to experts, Gambel's quail primarily move about by walking, as Cal chose to do once he flew down from the Walkers' garage roof. They are a non-migratory species but have an exceptional command of flight, which is usually "short and explosive," before they slowly glide to the ground.

While the Walkers have enjoyed their unexpected guest, they are concerned about 'Cal's' future when the weather begins to turn cold.

"Maybe it's someone's pet and they'll see the story and come and claim it," Shareyn says.

Regardless of 'Cal's' length of stay at the Walkers, Shareyn has plans to permanently record his visit. An oil painter, Shareyn hopes to transform 'Cal's' image into a work of art.

"He's a beautiful bird," she says. "We've really enjoyed having him around."

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