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Species Guide
A photo of a Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus)
Mountain Quail

Mountain Quail

Oreortyx pictus

The Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus), is a small, ground-dwelling bird, distinguished by its unique topknots. Males and females are similar in appearance, though the female's topknot is shorter and their coloration varies slightly. These birds exhibit a brown face, a gray breast, and a brown back with primaries, while their underside is heavily barred with white. As they mature, their wing coverts transition from multicolored to a solid hue.

Identification Tips

To identify the Mountain Quail, look for its average length of 26–28 cm (10–11 in) and a wingspan of 35–40 cm (14–16 in). Their rounded wings are relatively short, and they possess long, featherless legs. The seasonal and geographical changes in the color of their topknots can be a helpful identification marker, along with the wider white barring on the flanks of females.


This species thrives in mountainous chaparral west of the Rocky Mountains and can be found in areas such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Coast Range, and lava reefs of the Modoc Plateau. They are also known to inhabit wooded areas and are adaptable up to elevations of 3,000 m (9,800 ft).


The Mountain Quail ranges from British Columbia in Canada through various parts of the United States to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. They are non-migratory, although some populations may move to different altitudes within mountain ranges seasonally.


These quails are primarily terrestrial, adept at swiftly navigating through underbrush. They form family groups of up to 20 birds outside the breeding season and are known for their secretive nature. When they do take flight, it is typically a brief, vigorous burst followed by a glide to safety.


Mountain Quail are monogamous, with the female laying 9–10 eggs in a simple scrape, often near water. Incubation lasts 21 to 25 days, primarily by the female. Remarkably, males may also incubate, suggesting the potential for raising two broods per season. Chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after hatching.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Mountain Quail consists mainly of plant matter and seeds. Chicks have a more insectivorous diet, which gradually shifts to plants as they grow.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Mountain Quail as Least Concern, with a broad and plentiful range. However, their success is closely linked to the availability of suitable habitat, which is influenced by climate and human activities such as agriculture and development.

Mountain Quail Sounds

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Mountain Quail Fun Facts

Did you know?
Mountain Quails is the largest quail in the United States.

Mountain Quails on Birda


More New World Quail

A photo of a California Quail (Callipepla californica) , male

California Quail

Callipepla californica
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