Biologist with quail eggsStaff biologist Merrill Roseberry checks the status of button quail eggs. The eggs are on display and will hatch for all to see in mid-March as part of Sac State’s Living Gallery. (Sacramento State/Craig Koscho)

The sounds of chirping birds soon will fill the lobby of Sacramento State’s Sequoia Hall with the newest exhibit in the Living Gallery series.

Button quail are the latest inhabitants of the large display case, which previously housed a corpse flower, a colony of ants, and a flutter of butterflies.

Sponsored the University’s Department of Biological Sciences (www.csus.edu/bios), Biography of Birds: Avian Life from Egg to Adult is a rather sedentary exhibit at the moment, consisting of 19 button quail eggs in an incubator. That all will change by mid-March when the eggs hatch and the quail start exploring their home. Interested viewers are invited to drop by Sequoia Hall any time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Button quail weigh about 4 ounces, are as large as the average fist, and live about four years, says Merrill Roseberry, staff biologist and quail stepmother for the remainder of the spring semester.

“For the first few weeks, the display is completely devoted to eggs and chick development,” Roseberry says. That includes stuffed, mounted species of several local birds, along with their eggs and nests. But after 16 days, the quail will start pecking through the egg shells, emerging within a couple of days.

“Once the chicks hatch, all of the stuffed birds and eggs currently in here will come out, we’ll put the brooder in, and the chicks will grow up in front of everyone,” Roseberry says.

Although they have wings, button quail are flightless birds, born on the ground, and come out of the egg able to see and ready to walk and forage for food.

Roseberry will see to it that they’re provided with food, warmth, and clean bedding. “They typically like to be in small, enclosed areas, so the 75-gallon fish tank we’ll have them in will keep them happy all the way through adulthood,” she says. “If they stayed there the rest of their lives, they’d be happy.”

Button quail can be kept as pets either indoors or outdoors in an insulated coop, so Roseberry has arranged adoptive “parents” to take them in when it’s time for them to move on. “Then they’ll go home and be someone’s friend for the rest of their lives.”

For more information on programs of the Department of Biological Sciences, visit the website or call (916) 278-6535. – Craig Koscho