Partridge (Quail)

by Richard L. Dieterle

I. Partridge, or Quail, is the spirit chief of the birds that bear his name. In America this variety of bird (the genus Colinus) is also known by the name "quail" or "bobwhite."

At a council of the spirits held to determine how many moons should make a year, Partridge stepped forward and spread his tail feathers and suggested that the year contain as many months as spots on his tail feathers. However, the spirits felt that this was too long a period of time and rejected his suggestion.1 Once Quail came to live on earth as a human being. He was the youngest of 10 brothers, and one day a woman showed up at the lodge and was taken by the men as their sister. However, she was not, and was actually plotting to murder them all. She chased after them and in order to evade her, the brothers changed into the kind of animal whose spirit one of them was. Finally, because they could not evade her in any other form, they changed into quails, the animal form of their youngest brother. Nevertheless, they were cornered, but when the quail sang "Bobwhite!" the Thunderbirds came to their rescue and killed their pursuer. Ever after, when quails sing, clouds begin to gather.2 On another occasion, Partridge [perhaps identical with (II)] offered his assistance in a game of chance to the ever Spirit of Gamboling, who used his bill unsuccessfully to separate out an even number of sticks from a pile.3

Links: Moon, Bird Spirits, Chipmunks. See Glossary, sv Quail.

Stories: featuring Partridge I as a character: Black and White Moons, The Spirit of Gambling, The Quail Hunter; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (blackbirds, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), The Dipper (Thunderbirds, kingfishers, hummingbirds, black hawks), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (turkey buzzard), The Shaggy Man (blackbirds), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (blackbirds), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įcorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Green Man (owls), The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there.

II. "Partridge" is a name that can be used for a representative of this genus (Colinus). A character named "Partridge" [perhaps identical with (I)] was the brother of a Thunderbird-like man who saved his village from the rampage of a were-grizzly.4

Links: Thunderbirds, Bird Spirits. See Glossary, sv Quail.

Stories: featuring partridges (quails) as characters: The Big Stone, Black and White Moons, The Spirit of Gambling, Partridge's Older Brother.


1 Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn, Winnebago Stories (New York, Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1928) 91-99. Informant: Oliver LaMère of the Bear Clan.

2 LaMère and Shinn, Winnebago Stories, 65-74.

3 LaMère and Shinn, Winnebago Stories, 75-86.

4 Paul Radin, "Partridge's Older Brother," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #7.