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Covey

Typically pronounced "cuh-vee," this word derives from the from Middle French, via Middle English, and the word covee, from Old French, and from cover, meaning to sit on, or brood over. The ultimate root is probably from the Latin cubare, to lie (as in, to lie down).

This is meaningful in the context of upland game birds in the sense that we see birds such as quail forming social groups (known as coveys). These groups, which are essentially small flocks, provide social strength, mating opportunities, and a greater awareness of predators and other threats. The coveys are larger and better formed during the mating and brooding season (spring through fall), and one can observe (and more often, hear) fairly large coveys of quail and other partridge-like birds forming almost immediately after birds are scattered during hunting and training.

Uplanders will often refer to the movement of stray birds as they call to each other and congregate within cover as "coveying up." It's not uncommon for a preserve owner or field trial marshal to know exactly where, in a given field, that coveys are likely to form, move, and spend the night.

The coveying instinct works well for birds, because an inbound predator (including your faithful hunting dog) can come across a tight covey of birds and suddenly find them scattering, almost in an explosion, in ten different directions. Predators (and gunners) will sometimes be at a loss on just how to handle this sort of distraction, and that's exactly why ground-loving game birds have evolved the technique: more birds live to reproduce another day, and the slower stragglers pay the price (and aren't as likely to live long enough to pass along their less escape-enabled genes).

Another practical use for the coveying instinct is the trainer's ability to use a recall pen to collect up training birds that have been released in the field. This insures that at least some released birds will make it back to the pen for use another day, and the trip to the pen builds strength and skills in the birds.


 
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