Nov 6, 2013 | Featured Web Article

Six Chicken-like Birds You Can Attract to Your Backyard

The northern bobwhite is often heard before seen. Listen for the distinctive bobwhite! call in old pastures, farm fields with hedgerows, open-understory woods, and grasslands.
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You may not think of turkeys, quail, and other upland gamebirds as backyard birds, but in many areas of North America, birders can easily lure these species to their backyard feeding stations. Here are a few examples, with feeding suggestions for each.

Plain Chachalaca

This one's just fun to say: Chatch-uh-LAHK-uh. The only member of the guan and currasow family to reach the United States, the plain chachalaca visits backyards in South Texas offering cracked corn, sunflower seed, and fruit pieces. These birds also come to water features to drink.

Wild Turkey

A year-round resident across much of the United States, the Thanksgiving bird is most common in mixed woodlands and agricultural fields but occasionally makes an appearance in suburban neighborhoods. Flocks of turkeys may visit feeders for cracked corn and sunflower seeds.

Scaled Quail

These birds' have a limited range in the Southwest, where they prefer desert grasslands and brushlands. At backyard feeding stations scaled quail prefer cracked corn and mixed seed scattered on the ground. They also visit water features to drink.

Gambel's Quail

Another bird of the Southwest desert, the Gambel's quail visits feeding stations for mixed seed and cracked corn. This species was named after the 19th century American naturalist William Gambel. Some folks like to point out that this bird "gambles" with its life by living in dry desert habitat.

California Quail

Gambel's and California quail appear nearly identical, but their ranges barely overlap. While Gambel's is a more southwestern species (southeast California, Arizona, New Mexico, etc.), California inhabits the rest of the Golden State and into the Northwest. Both species are attracted to backyards offering mixed seed and cracked corn. Both species are also loud as heck, so on second thought, perhaps you don't want to attract them to your backyard...

Nothern Bobwhite

The only native quail found in eastern North America, the northern bobwhite has declined drastically in recent years due to habitat loss. Where these birds still occur, they may visit backyard feeding stations for mixed seed or cracked corn, especially in fall and winter.

If you see any of these species in your backyard this season, we'd love to hear about it! Tell us in the comments below.

About Kyle Carlsen

Kyle is the assistant editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. When not writing about birds, he divides his time between backpacking, traveling, and composing piano music. He's also a self-described coffee addict.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018