bobwhite, common name for an American henlike bird of the family Phasianidae, which also includes the pheasant and the partridge. The eastern bobwhite quail ( Colinus virginianus ) is about 10 in. (25 cm) long. Its plumage is mixed brown, black, and white in the male and brown and buff in the female, making it almost invisible against the vegetation of weedy fields and edges of woodland. Bobwhites feed on insects and weed seeds. During much of the year they travel in coveys, sleeping at night in a compact circle, tails to the center. Thus they can fly out in all directions if alarmed. In spring when the coveys disperse, each male selects a territory in which to nest; the characteristic call of "bob-white" functions to attract a mate and to warn off other males. The female is responsible for nest building, and builds a nest on the ground in which she lays 12 to 15 eggs per clutch. Like most quails, bobwhites are monogamous. The large brood follows the hen; when danger threatens, the hen feigns injury until the young have scattered and hidden. Bobwhites are hunted as game birds and are often called quail or partridge; they can be raised on farms and multiply rapidly under protection. Bobwhites are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Phasianidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.