Montezuma Quail Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A very plump, short-tailed, round-winged game bird, with essentially no neck. It has an oddly shaped, narrow head with a crest at the back. The bill is heavy, short, and thick.

    Relative Size

    Larger than an Inca Dove, slightly smaller than a Scaled Quail or Gambel's Quail.

    Relative Sizebetween robin and crowbetween robin and crow
    Measurements
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
      • Weight: 4.3-8.1 oz (122-230 g)
      • Wingspan: 16.1-16.9 in (41-43 cm)

Regional Differences

Ornithologists recognize four subspecies, two each on either side of the Rio Balsas drainage in Mexico. Birds in the United States are subspecies mearnsi, and are similar to the next closest subspecies in Mexico, montezumae. On the other side of the Rio Balsas are two subspecies (sallei, rowleyi) that differ notably from the northern two subspecies: instead of whitish spots on a blue-gray background, males in this group have dark gray flanks with large cinnamon spots, as well as more richly colored upperparts. Some ornithologists suggest these two subspecies should be considered a full species, called Salle’s Quail.