Mountain QuailOreortyx pictus
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Odontophoridae
A plump bird patterned in gray, white, and chestnut, the Mountain Quail sports a dramatic head plume like an exclamation point on its head. It is an elusive bird of western scrub and highlands—easy to hear but difficult to see. The species inhabits remote mountainous areas typically covered with dense shrubs such as chaparral. In summer, they move to woodlands as high as 10,000 feet to take advantage of abundant plant and insect life. As autumn approaches, they descend toward lower ridges or desert plains, gathering into small coveys.More ID Info
Find This Bird
A spring or summer hiking trip into the mountainous backcountry of this species’ range is a good way to at least hear a Mountain Quail—its loud, squeaky whistle echoes off canyon walls especially in early morning and late evening. Seeing these birds in their dense habitat is harder: search along roadsides or trail edges and look for family groups moving to and from their night roosts or eating grit to aid in processing food.
- Colín Serrano (Spanish)
- Colin des montagnes (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Mountain Quail is the largest quail in the United States.
- The Mountain Quail’s long head plume gives a clue to its attitude. When the plume is angled backward, the bird is typically relaxed, feeding or resting, like a dog with its ears down. When the plume sticks straight up, the bird is agitated or alert.
- In the late 1800s, hunters released Mountain Quail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. A small breeding population existed there for more than 100 years, through the early 1970s, but it had disappeared completely by 1990.