Local shopkeeper adopts mysterious California quail

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In 41 years at the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, Mark Hess had never seen anything like it.

And he might not ever again.

"It" was a mysterious California quail – a bird, as its name suggests, not native to Wisconsin – that wandered into the downtown Waukesha storefront of The Fruits of the Spirit Candles shop, 349 W. Broadway St., early last month. Hess corralled the bird and brought it to the HAWS shelter at 701 Northview Road.

The store's owner, Terry Stine, has since adopted the quail, named Quincy, and dubbed him her business's new "mascot."

"I'm loving him," she said during a recent interview. "He's an amazing little bird."

But neither she nor Hess, the field services and facilities manager at HAWS, have any idea where the bird came from or how it got to Waukesha in the first place.

'Rather unusual' call

The call came into Hess, a state-licensed wildlife facilitator, during the afternoon on Oct. 6.

He has been around long enough to have gone on his share of peculiar rescues, but even by his standards the California quail rated as "rather unusual."

"I was a little in disbelief," Hess said. "There are explainable circumstances for some of these things, but a California quail?"

He said the bird was hiding under a shelf in Stine's store when he arrived and had to be lured out with crackers. But even then, Hess added, he had to chase Quincy around the shop a couple times before he was able to reel him in.

The bird was so used to people – though predictably afraid of nets – that Hess believes it was raised locally as a pet. However, no one claimed Quincy after HAWS put him up at the local shelter, so his origins remain a mystery.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, California quails are native to the southern part of that state and do not migrate, only rarely moving more than 10 miles from where they hatch.

How the bird wound up in Wisconsin in fall is a mystery that may never be solved.

"It's a long way from southern California," Hess said. "All kind of in a day's work around here."

A new home

What is clear is that the bird will be well cared for by Stine, who said she plans to eventually keep Quincy in her store.

"I think the kids are going to love him," she said.

Stine originally tried to shoo the bird out of her store, but said that he looked "terrified" outdoors so she urged him back inside. He ambled around the shop for more than two hours before Stine called HAWS.

She said when she would call to him, Quincy would run toward her as fast as he could.

"It was so funny," she added.

Stine has spent her time since the surprise visit acquainting herself with information about California quails and said she planned to bring Quincy around the store in a few weeks once he's acclimated to her and his new home.

"He's just the sweetest little thing," she said.

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