Early one summer morning a mother and father quail with their brood of thirteen little chicks came out of the bushes in our backyard where they had been nesting. The little chicks looked like tiny balls of fur, and the parent birds were clucking and scolding.
The father quail went first, strutting and moving his head mightily from left to right. When he was far enough into the street that he could see clearly in both directions, he gave a call and the mother quail started across the street. Then, like little soldiers, the baby quail lined up single file and followed her, running as fast as they could. The father fell in line after the last chick, and the family scurried safely across the street.
The baby quail showed great obedience and devotion to their parents. The little ones had faith in their parents’ leadership. They knew they would be protected and guided to a place where they could safely hunt for seeds they liked to eat. The parents expected obedience from their tiny chicks. They did not want them to stray, and yet they led them with tenderness.
About fifteen years ago a large flock of quail selected four blue spruce trees near the side of our house for their nightly roosting place. Our family decided to feed the quail every day during the winter months so they would live with us permanently. In back of our house we have a patio and a large lawn. Glass doors open directly to the back from our living room, and we always have a perfect view of our patio and lawn. We decided the patio would be an ideal place to feed quail and any other birds that came during the winter months.
I built a bird feeder about six feet high so snowbirds and other small birds could enjoy eating where they felt more secure off the ground. Each day we scattered milo on the patio for the quail, and we also put milo in the bird feeder for the smaller birds.
Shortly before sunrise a number of male quail would begin to crow and give their whistles and commands. The flock of quail soon grew to about seventy-five birds and would fly down from the blue spruce trees to the patio for their morning feeding. On days when there was no snow on our back lawn, the quail would finish their meal and then would usually lounge around on the lawn for about two hours to sun themselves. Then they would go out our back gate and up on the hills to spend the day gathering seeds.
Shortly before nightfall the large flock of quail would return through our east gate, pick a few seeds from the lawn, and then come down to the patio to have their final fill of milo before flying into the blue spruce trees to roost for the night. What a joyful experience our family had day after day as we watched these birds!
Many snowbirds and other small birds often spend the day in two flowering crab apple trees just south of our patio. They too come to the bird feeder, eat, and then fly back into the trees.
Early one fall twenty Steller’s jays arrived at our bird feeders. These jays are gorgeous dark blue and have big topknots on their heads. They feed on the milo with the quail and the smaller birds. I told them that we would be delighted to have them join our birds and if they would stay with us all winter, I would give them all the food they could eat each day. To our delight, they stayed.
What has been our pay for feeding all these birds? As a family we have received great joy from watching them. We have come to realize that our Father in heaven provides for them as He does for us. They are part of His great plan. He created them to gladden our hearts with their songs and to give us joy in observing their beauty.
The Savior taught that our Heavenly Father feeds the birds and that not one sparrow is forgotten before God, for He takes note of every sparrow that shall fall on the ground (Matt. 10:29).