SANTIAGO – California quail (Callipepla californica)—known as “Condorniz” in Chile—are common throughout the Central Zone and into the Lake District. In fact, quail populations there often exceed those in their native habitats of Western North America. The species is also continuing to expand its range: it has now reached all the way across the Andes and into Argentina. This begs the question: How did the California quail get to Chile in the first place?
In 1926, E. F. Greenwood of San Francisco, California explained, in a letter he wrote to Dr. H. S. Swarth, of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley, California:
My wife, a Chilean, is a granddaughter of one William Grovers, formerly of California and Holland, who had a ranch near San Jose. He decided to migrate to Chile about 1864. Being a thrifty Hollander, he took many things with him, including a brace of quail, which he had captured on his ranch. When he arrived in Chile there were no quail in the country, and his birds, exhibited in a store window, were quite a novelty. He bought a ranch at Limache, near Valparaíso, and had his birds there for some time. Then, while feeding them one day, their cage tipped over and they escaped. This is the reason for the abundance of quail in Chile.
There is evidence that others imported quail from California to Chile, but the importation by Grovers appears to have been the first.
Robert Travis grew up in San Francisco, California, and moved to Santiago, Chile, in July 2018. In addition to editing and writing for Chile Today, he practices law from afar with Travis & Travis. He’s thrilled to be living in the same hemisphere as “the world’s longest left,” Playa Chicama.