This beautiful, conspicuous bird is easily recognized by the slender, plume-shaped crest on the head, which often curves forward, so that the tip is in front of the bill. Adult males have dark patches on throat and belly, while females and immatures lack these striking markings. The California quail (Callipepla californica) has a very similar appearance, but the feathers on the belly of this bird show a very distinctive scaly pattern, whereas the scales on the Gambel's Quail's belly are rather faint.
Gambel's Quail is native to the desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They are gregarious, mostly ground-dwelling birds. In fall and winter, they gather into large groups called coveys. Quail travelling together often noisily communicate with one another. Their call is very distinctive. When sensing danger, these quail issue urgent alarm calls and quickly run away or fly off. They often seek refuge in trees and shrubs, and they roost in trees at night.