TENNESSEE REDS

Tennessee Red Quail

There is every reason to believe that this strikingly beautiful color phase will remain a rarity in the wild in the future, as it has been in the past. – Herbert Stoddard

I was recently visiting a friend of mine named Harold Ray. He is known through out the field trial world as one of the best ever shooting dog trainers. He has won eighty championships and was elected to the Field Trial Hall Of Fame in 2007. Early in his career Harold was hired by Elvin and Inez Smith to be the trainer for Smiths English Setters. Last year Mrs. Smith passed away, and Harold was asked to go through some of the records and materials she had accumulated. During this process he came across a binder of very old issues of American Field magazine. Harold told me that one of them contained an article that discussed the red quail of the Ames plantation. At this point my ears perked up.

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Over the years I have had many people ask me about the red quail.
Questions like, Where did they come from?,Why is it called the Tennessee Red?, Is it a separate species?, Are their calls different from the Northern Bobwhite?Will red quail and northern bobwhite form mixed coveys?
Maybe this was an opportunity to get some answers.
Harold went on to say that according to the article some of the first reports of Red Quail came from sightings on the Ames Plantation around 1925.
I had heard of the Ames Plantation since that is where the National Field Trial Championship is held every year. I knew it was a large place (over 18,000 acres), and was located in west Tennessee.
Unfortunately, Harold had loaned out the magazine article, so I could not read the entire thing myself to learn more about the sighting. But I left his place with enough of a lead to begin digging for more information about red quail on my own. Heres what I found out.
According to ornithologists, if a quail shows a lack of pigmentation in its feathers, this condition is called albinism. If it shows an abnormal red coloration, it is referred to as having an erythrism. In Herbert Stoddards classic book, The Bobwhite Quail, he addresses the subject of erythrism. He says that a female quail of the red color phase was sent to the U.S. Biological Survey after being shot in 1921. The bird was collected ten miles south of Potomac, Virginia in King George County.
Not much more was said about this curious red quail until the manager of the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee wrote Mr. Stoddard a letter in February of 1927. The manager, Mr. C.E. Buckle, wrote:
There is a mixed covey of quail here of which seven are distinct auburn red, and when flying they look a richer red than they are in your hand. We killed one a day or two ago and it is the most beautiful quail I have ever seen.
Soon after he penned this letter, Mr. Buckle wrote an article for American Field in which he describes the unusual coloring of the birds this way:
The auburn red is much like that of the red Scotch grouse.
A year later he shot a red quail there at the Plantation, and sent it to Stoddard for his collection.
If I had been Herbert Stoddard, I would have seen this as an opportunity to go quail hunting at the Ames Plantation. That is exactly what he did a few weeks later. While there he saw five of the red phase quail in four different coveys.
The red quail seemed to spread out and increase on the Ames Plantation. About 1930 Stoddard noted, no less than one to five red quail have been noted in seven different coveys over several square miles…
In the years following many red quail were captured on the Ames Plantation and propagated for release in an attempt to increase their numbers. Some were also trapped and sent to Sherwood Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia, for genetic experiments.
From these early studies it was determined that the red quail condition was a natural trait that can crop out from time to time in the northern part of the bobwhite range. However, it seemed that Grand Junction, Tennessee was the only location where it actually had a tendency to persist.
However, efforts to increase the number of red quail were very discouraging. In a summary of this work, published in 1949, researchers made the following comments, Both at Grand Junction and in Georgia, the red quail that had been released as adults appeared in a few instances from five to 35 miles away —— . They also noted, the reds lacked the vigor of the normal birds, their egg fertility was much lower, and their mortality rate both before and after hatching was higher .
Since some quail growers are currently propagating this muted strain commercially, it is obvious that much knowledge has been gained about rearing the red quail since the 1930’s. So what might one expect to see in the red quail obtained from breeders in this day and time? Once again I turned to Harold Ray for his insight. I figured anyone who trained four Hall of Fame dogs and has been working with all kinds of released quail since the
1960’s, had to be very discriminating when it came to bird performance.
Harold told me he had used Tennessee Reds for a couple of years on his place. He used some in Johnny Houses(recall pens) and others to establish free ranging, pre-season release coveys. From his experience, Harold said the red quail seemed to hold to a smaller home range, be very strong fliers, and demonstrate a stronger covey instinct than some of the normal bobwhites he has used.
This experience has led me down a scent trail to some great historical documents on red quail and the answers I had been seeking. I had learned that these quail were not a separate species, but rather a naturally occurring muted strain of the Northern Bobwhite. Also, I found out that since this color seems to persist in Tennessee, it is sometimes called a Tennessee Red.
As for their behavior, I surmised that since they had first been found in mixed coveys with Northern Bobwhite, they must get along pretty well with their relatives. In addition, they have the same spring mating call and fall covey up call as the brown phase .

Out of a casual conversation with a friend I was able to learn something new about quail. In turn I am able to share this information with you. You never know what can come out of something like a simple visit with your neighbor, especially when that neighbor has seen as many covey rises as Harold Ray.
References:
Buckle, C.E.:American Field, vol. CVII, no. 17,p.444, April 23,1927.
Cole, et.al., Auk66:28-35,1949.
Stoddard, H.L., The Bobwhite Quail, 1931: 86-87.

22 thoughts on “TENNESSEE REDS

  1. Ray Pinson

    Harold is a good friend of mine. Harold and Doug Ray train and run my English Pointers on the field trial circuit. I run them as well as an amateur. I have hunted on Smith Plantation and worked dogs there as well. Harold has mastered the quail release program at Smith Plantatoin. He is so knowledgeable about the release program. I have talked to him at length about how he does it and he is amazing. The birds fly like wild coveys. It is a beautiful place and I always enjoy visiting there.

    Ray Pinson

  2. Joe Cappy

    When young, the Tennessee Reds don’t show any difference in markings. How can you tell the difference between a male/female?

  3. Jim Evans

    Joe,
    Your question is a good one.
    I have talked with Bobby Moore at Moore’s Gamebird Farm in Browns Alabama. He raises Tenn reds and says that their is no way to tell the difference by just looking at the adult.
    The only way I know of sexing the live adult reds would be by “venting”.
    This is a process by which you take the bird in hand and pull back the feathers on the anal vent. Moderate pressure is then applied to just ahead of the vent. If it is a male the sex gland will protrude.
    Hope this will help.
    Jim

  4. Mary Buckle

    Hello Jim,
    I enjoyed reading your article on the Tennessee Reds. My great grandfather was C. E. Buckle, Manager of Ames Plantation at Graqnd Junction, TN, Secretary of National Field Trial Association (1917-1933) and expert on quails, who you quoted in your article. I have a copy of Herbert Stoddards’s “The Bobwhite Quail”, 1931, in which C.E. contributed data.
    As I work on the genealogy of C.E. Buckle, I would be very interested to learning more from you and Harold Ray.
    Mary

  5. Chris Snow

    Happy to have found this string and the information on history of this strain.

    I live in south central Michigan, just west of Battle Creek. Last evening, heard what I thought was a bobwhite call, so I whistled back and a moment later a “red” bobwhite emerged from the wooded area and ran across my lawn. Proceeded to meander around the deck and even hopped onto the rail for the next couple of hours before it got dark.
    This morning, I heard it call again and I replied and it again came to our back deck. .Seems very sociable and willing to stay in the area.

    It is a beautiful bird. Having some experience raising bobwhites some years back, and fact that we’ve never seen one wild near our home, I was very suprised when I heard the call, and even more suprised when I finally saw it and noticed how responsive it was. Of course, became extremely curious to learn what it was (since it certainly demonstrated all the same charactersitics of a bobwhite but a beautiful rust red color).

    From what I’ve read and have been able to see in pictures on the internet, this certainly appears to be a Tennessee Red and can only speculate that there must be someone in the area who is keeping them.

    Thanks for the background and history.

  6. Tammy

    Being that the Tennessee Red quail is a subspecies of the bobwhite, Does anyone know if it required to have a liscense in Missouri to own them. I raise button quail, and love them. I am not looking to mass breed this species, but I would love to have a few on our farm. I was told I didnt need a liscense, and purchased eggs that are to be delivered any day now, and now I am told I need to pay 50.00 for a breeders liscense. I am not intending to sell, tons of these cute quail, that is more than a dog liscense for year. Please anyone with any information on this contact me by email immediately. I dont want to have to throw out my eggs. Thanks

  7. Jim Evans Post author

    I wouldn’t think that you should have a problem since you are not a commercial breeder, but since most regulations don’t make a lot of sense you should call your local
    office of fish and game.

  8. Rhonda

    Then why do all the hatchery descriptions say the reds are aggressive and can’t be kept with standard (regular Bobwhite) quail?

  9. Jim Evans Post author

    Rhonda – Your question is a good one.
    I spoke with two different quail producers that grow both Tenn. Reds and regular Bobwhites.

    Both growers told me that the aggressiveness of the reds can vary with different hatches. Some “batches” are just more aggressive than others.
    One grower keeps the chicks separate to play it safe.
    The other grower has been buying his Tenn. Red and Bobwhite chicks and raising them together with no problems. He has been doing this for the past four years.
    The one thing that they both have seen is that
    if you have a pen full of Bobwhites and just a few Reds, the bobwhites will tend to kill the Reds. If you have a pen full of mostly Reds and just a few Bobwhites, the Reds tend to kill the bobwhites. As long as there are a fair number of both raised together, there seems to be no problem. This seems strange when I think of times that I have seen coveys of bobwhite quail in the wild with a couple of Reds in the rise.

  10. Wally Shook

    Jim interesting information, thank you for posting. I am very familiar with Harold and the Famed Smith Setters and the plantation. We have 8 English Setters ourselves. I also raise birds both Bobwhites and the Tennessee Reds of today. I have been raising the birds here in Mid-Michigan to train our dogs here for about 8 years. I raise them together with no adverse effects. This past year I even kept a mixed pen through breeding season. I kept looking for obvious mixing of the strains in the new hatching but couldn’t see anything obviously noticable. I may try keeping a log and separate some birds into mixed pairs next year just for kicks.

  11. Jim Evans Post author

    The best source for Tenn. Reds that I know of is Moore’s Gamebird Farm
    You can contact Bob and Jenni Moore. They are located in Browns, Alabama.
    You can reach them at (334)683-8039 or email them at quail33@att.net
    Hope this helps.

  12. wallace gainey

    I have been releasing the reds and regular bobs on BOB WHITE HILLS QUAIL PRSERVE FOR 3 YRS I HAVE NOTICED THAT THE RED SEEMS TO BE A MORE HARDY BIRD AND WILL MIX AND GENERALLY TAKE OVER THE COVEY. THE RED SEEMS TO BE MORE PREDATORE AWARE AND THEY WILL GET IN THE MOST HARDEST PLACES TO

    HUNT AND FLUSH. I FIND MORTALITY RATE IS LOWER. THIS IS BASED ON ONLY 3 YEARS OF RELEASING AND HUNTING THIS BIRD. I LOVE WHAT I SEE IN THIS BIRD AND WILL CONTINUE TO RELEASE AND WILL INCREASE THE NUMBERS WALLY

  13. Jim Evans Post author

    Wally,
    Besides myself, I know of two other people in my area that mix some of the reds in with their regular bobwhites when they conduct an early release. We have seen broods of chicks with
    adult reds from time to time during the summer.
    One thing to keep in mind is that this is just a color phase of the bobwhite. As these birds mix with the standard bobs, most of their offspring will look like the more dominant the normal bobwhite quail.

  14. Pierre RAVEAU

    Does the Tennessee Reds come back to the callback pen by the bobwhites to or not .or do they have to have a female red or vice versa .

  15. Jim Evans Post author

    Pierrre,
    The Tennessee Red is just a different color phase of bobwhite quail. They have the same call as the bobwhite and naturally mix with northern bobwhite coveys.
    Just think of it as a normal bobwhite.

  16. Jenny

    I had never seen the Red quail before. 2 showed up under my bird feeder in Grayling MI. I am wondering if they live there? or if they are escapees from a pen?

  17. Jim Evans Post author

    Yes, I have a article posted in “boots and briars” that explains the basic history of the TN red quail.
    This bird is just a color phase of the northern bobwhite. They can do fine in any area that has suitable habitat in the northern bobwhite quail range.

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