Montezuma QuailCyrtonyx montezumae
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Odontophoridae
Despite the male's extravagant stripes, streaks, and polka dots, the Montezuma Quail is a phantom of a bird that hides in mountain grasslands and oak woodlands of Mexico, its range barely creeping into the southwestern U.S. The Montezuma Quail is something of a homebody, moving as little as 150 feet per day as it digs for tubers, acorns, and insects under the cover of dense native grasses. These birds travel in pairs or in small family groups, rarely forming large coveys.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Montezuma Quail are not rare, but they may seem that way. Unlike other quail, they spend very little time in the open, and often your first encounter with them is as a ball of feathers that explodes nearly underfoot and then flies off out of view. Look for them in early morning and very late afternoon, when these birds are most likely to be on the move and may cross paths or quiet dirt roads.
- Colín de Moctezuma (Spanish)
- Colin arlequin (French)
- Cool Facts
- Montezuma Quail have long, sickle-shaped claws on each toe that are about half again the length of the foot. It uses these claws for digging up bulbs, tubers, and invertebrates. Montezuma Quail’s genus, Cyrtonyx, comes from the Greek words for “bent” (kurtus) and “claw” (onux). If you see pits in the soil more than an inch deep, it's a sign that these birds are foraging in the area.
- The Montezuma Quail usually crouches and stays still when danger threatens, and then explodes into flight if the danger comes too close. In captivity, even with clipped wing feathers, it can leap at least 6.5 feet straight up with great force.
- Montezuma Quail tend to stay in the same small area, often 50 yards or less, over the course of a day.
- Like many game birds, the Montezuma Quail has many folk names, including fool's quail; in decades past, it was known as harlequin quail (for the intricate plumage in red, white, and black) and Mearns’s quail, named in honor of American naturalist Edgar Alexander Mearns.
- Montezuma Quail do not normally form large groups (coveys) in the nonbreeding season the way many other quail species do. Usually they remain in small groups composed of a pair and their young. On rare occasions, coveys of up to 25–40 birds have been reported.
- The oldest recorded Montezuma Quail was a captive individual that lived to be 8 years old; there is no age record for a wild individual.