Donors, quail aren't birds of a feather

February 14, 2006|By JOHN WOESTENDIEK | JOHN WOESTENDIEK,SUN REPORTER

In defense of Vice President Dick Cheney, who accidentally shot a wealthy campaign contributor while hunting quail over the weekend, the two species can be easily confused. Here, then, is a primer, for Cheney and hunters and non-hunters everywhere, on how to differentiate between the two.

Bobwhite Quail: Scientific name, Colinus virginianus.

Wealthy Campaign Contributor: Cloutus politicus.

Quail: 8 inches to 11 inches long and weighing about half a pound; reddish-brown feathers are mottled with black, white and gray to help blend into surroundings and avoid predators.

Contributor: 60 inches to 80 inches tall, sometimes weighing upward of 200 pounds; usually white and wrinkled with tufts of gray hair atop its head. No feathers, but covered in finely tailored clothing, often monogrammed.

Quail: Must be flushed out of its cover, often by hunting dogs.

Contributor: Must be flushed out, often with promises of ambassadorships.

Quail: Found in 35 states in America -- in open forest, sparsely covered fields of mesquite and cactus, and along the edges of cultivated fields.

Contributor: Found across the U.S., on upper floors of corporate skyscrapers and in mansions in communities named after the nature that existed there before they were built.

Quail: When alarmed, freezes and relies on camouflage. When that fails, takes to the air.

Contributor: When alarmed, calls private security force. When that fails, takes out its checkbook.

Quail: Favorite foods are seeds, berries and insects.

Contributor: Dom Perignon, caviar and small companies.

Quail: Very social, will usually hang out in "coveys" of nine to 15, gathering to "roost" in the brush at dusk.

Contributor: Also very social with others of similar socioeconomic standing, gathering at dusk for cocktails at "the club."

Quail: Numbers reduced because of heavy cultivation by farmers and timber production. But benefited from Bush administration initiative in August 2004 that devoted 250,000 acres in the Midwest and southeast as quail habitat.

Contributor: Not endangered, so long as elected officials continue to hold lavish $1,000-a-plate dinners and invite them to spend a night at the White House or fly on Air Force One.

Quail: Male of the species puffs out feathers and lowers wings to protect territory from other males during April-May mating season. Attracts females with distinctive whistling and by fanning tail and bowing.

Contributor: Breeds year round, attracting mates with shiny sports cars or expensive gifts. May resort to whistling or bowing, but more likely to simply invite female to luxuriously appointed nest and let it work its magic.

Quail: After female lays eggs, male and female take turns sitting on them, although male normally sits on them only a quarter of the time.

Contributor: Male likely to flee nest during this time for golf, deep-sea fishing or quail hunting, which has been called the sport of aristocracy.

Quail: Seldom live more than five years, instead falling victim to agricultural contaminants, severe weather and predators such as skunks, hawks, opossums and hunters who actually hit what they are aiming at.

Contributor: Can live to 80, 90 years or more, if avoids hunting trips with Cheney.

john.woestendiek@baltsun.com

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