Mountain Quail

Mountain Quail

Oreortyx pictus
Population size
160-260 thou
Life Span
1-4 yrs
64 km/h
189-262 g
26-28 cm
35-40 cm

Mountain quail are small ground-dwelling birds in the New World quail family. They have relatively short, rounded wings and long, featherless legs. These birds are easily recognized by their top knots, which are shorter in the female. They have a brown face, gray breast, brown back and primaries, and heavily white barred underside.


Mountain quail inhabit west of the Rocky Mountains, from the United States to the Baja peninsula Mexico. These birds are non-migratory, however, some populations may be altitudinal migrants in some mountain ranges. They inhabit mountainous chaparral, coniferous and mixed forests. During hot months they can often be found in brushy habitats along streams and rivers.


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Mountain quail are diurnal and spend most of their time on the ground; they primarily move about by walking and can move surprisingly quickly through brush and undergrowth. They may also jump or climb into trees or shrubs to reach leaves or berries. Any flight is usually short and explosive, with many rapid wingbeats followed by a slow glide to the ground. Mountain quail are gregarious only in the late summer, fall, and winter, when the adults and immature young congregate into family groups that may contain up to 20 birds.

Diet and Nutrition

Mountain quail are herbivores (granivores, folivores, frugivores) and their diet consists primarily of seeds, plant matter, and berries. They may also feed on some insects and fungi.

Mating Habits

21-25 days
9-10 eggs

Mountain quail are monogamous; they form pair bonds and both parents assist in raising the young. The female typically lays 9 to 10 eggs in a simple scrape concealed in vegetation, often at the base of a tree or shrub and usually close to water. Incubation lasts from 21-25 days, usually performed by the female and rarely by the male. The chicks are precocial; they hatch fully developed and are able to leave the nest with their parents within hours of hatching.


Population threats

Mountain quail are not considered threatened at present, being plentiful across their wide range. However, despite that these birds suffer from habitat loss mainly due to urbanization, expansion of agriculture, and grazing.

Population number

According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the Mountain quail is around 160,000 individuals. According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of this species is 260,000 breeding birds. Overall, currently, Mountain quail are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Mountain quail is the largest of all quail species that are found in the United States.
  • In some areas of their range Mountain quail make short migrations up and down the slopes of mountains on foot.
  • Quails are able to fly short distances, but they prefer to spend most of their time on the ground.
  • Only certain species of quail have plume or top knot that is shaped like a teardrop, on top of the head; this top knot bobs in a funny way when the bird is walking.
  • In order to keep in touch with each other, quails produce high pitched sounds, cackles, and even grunts.
  • Quails regularly take bath in the dust to keep their plumage clean and to remove pests from their feathers.


1. Mountain Quail on Wikipedia -
2. Mountain Quail on The IUCN Red List site -

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