The Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) is a stubby, secretive New World quail of Mexico and some nearby parts of the United States. It is also known as Mearns's quail, the harlequin quail (for the male's striking pattern), and the fool quail (for its behavior).
At about 22 cm (8.75 in), it is one of the shortest quails of North America. It has an even plumper build and shorter tail than other quails. Both sexes have the back and wing coverts tan with longitudinal light-buff streaks formed by the feather shafts and circular or transversely oblong black spots arranged in bars. A crest on the nape makes the profile distinctively long front-to-back. The bill is black above and bluish-gray below. The adult males have a striking, swirling black-and-white face pattern. A single tan plume lies flat over the crest. Their sides are blue-gray (often looking black) with bold spots, which in northern birds are white and in southern birds are white towards the front and chestnut towards the back. The middle of the chest and belly is dark brown in northern birds, lighter and tawnier in southern birds. Females have a suggestion of the male's face pattern. Their underparts are light brown with a few fine black shaft streaks and other lines. Juveniles resemble females, but the underparts are grayish with white shaft streaks and black dots. Immature males develop the adult side pattern early, but do not develop the face pattern till early winter.