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 Carlsen was an assistant editor for 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 live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Four "orphaned" very young poults (males) showed up in my yard about a year ago. They have been around all year. I do feed them cracked corn, and they come when I call for them. I don't want to over- domesticate them, but they do recognize me as the lady that brings food. They roost in the big oak trees at night. I have a 1 acre lot, with many acres of protected forest out back and a pond on the property.Lately, during mating season, I have had hens in the yard too. We've counted as many as 7 Toms and hens, but today, had just the one stalwart (a very robust Tom) that comes everyday. One of the Toms that has recently made an appearance is wounded, limping with an obvious predator wound. The local wildlife experts say he should make a full recovery, and that he's best left to recover with his flock.I find them to be interesting and beautiful birds.
    by Heather Cole, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • You have to put food in it.
    by Truckee Man, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020