Opinion: quail trails

By Murray Smith

Senior Leader, Bridges Church

For some time, we’ve enjoyed an increasingly large number of quail (yes that’s the plural) congregating around our home. These likeable birds with their jerky little walking movements have shown themselves to be quite tame and unless frightened they are reasonably comfortable with human interaction provided they have a few metres separation. Once startled though, they are inclined to flee, their little legs propelling them to ‘safety’ at break-neck speed.

They seem reluctant to explode into flight unless they really feel the necessity to do so.

You’re probably wondering what relevance quail might have to a ‘faith’ column. Fair enough. It’s certainly not that I’m short on material, rather I’ve been contemplating how often the Bible uses aspects of creation to highlight simple truth that carries profound insights for living.

One example would be Jesus telling us to ‘consider the lilies.’ Really? Wait…it’s not that silly to contemplate a lily. The context of Him making this unexpected statement will help. Jesus is addressing something human beings are very prone to do – that is to have anxiety and worries for the future with regards to practical material necessities and provisions. People stress about things like food, money, shelter, or in this instance clothing. We’re being reminded that God cares a great deal more for people than lilies in the field which are arrayed with a splendour that surpasses King Solomon’s glory.

Another unlikely little creature we are told to go consider is the ant. They are commended in the book of Proverbs for being industrious. Have you ever seen a ‘still’ ant? They’re always zooming around with something going on and we’re reminded that having a good work ethic and being enterprising gets things done.

Of course, the birds of the air get a mention too which brings me back to quail. Quail are very sociable birds, and often gather in flocks called ‘coveys’. We could learn from their sense of care for one another. Their distinctive penetrating ‘uhh aargh uh’ call is to gather and connect one another, ensuring no member of the covey gets isolated.

Recently I surprised a group of about eight quail and they displayed a strange group defence mechanism. Taking their lead from an ’alpha’ male they all instantly froze. Comically, they remained totally stationary – rivetted to the spot, statuesque for over half an hour. After that, they just strutted off. They had the wisdom not to draw attention to themselves- a sensible strategy at times.

When adult quail become a mated pair, it is not just for a single breeding season – these birds are committed. They mate for life. They remain monogamous till death do them part. We’ve observed a couple of breeding seasons with over a dozen cute little chicks being raised, becoming integrated into the flock as mature birds.

Both adults – male and female, together perform all parenting duties equally.

So you see, in many respects these birds have a few more clues than many humans.

Having a ‘bird brain’ isn’t such a bad thing.

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