Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

Mountain Quail

Oreortyx pictus

In foothills and mountains of the far west, coveys of these striking birds scurry through the manzanita thickets. Mountain Quail are often overlooked, because they keep to dense cover; when approached, they often sit motionless in the brush, where they are very difficult to spot. They become more conspicuous in spring, when the rich callnotes of the males, given at long intervals, echo across the slopes.
Conservation status Still reasonably common in highlands over most of its range. May have disappeared from northern limits in southwestern British Columbia (but possibly was introduced there, not native).
Family New World Quail
Habitat Dense brush in wooded foothills and mountains. Most common in pine-oak woodland, coniferous forest, and chaparral; sometimes in pinyon-juniper woods or in scrub at lower elevations. May be common in areas of second-growth brush after fires or clearcuts. Requires dense low thickets for cover. During hot weather, rarely found more than a mile from water.
In foothills and mountains of the far west, coveys of these striking birds scurry through the manzanita thickets. Mountain Quail are often overlooked, because they keep to dense cover; when approached, they often sit motionless in the brush, where they are very difficult to spot. They become more conspicuous in spring, when the rich callnotes of the males, given at long intervals, echo across the slopes.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • adult male and female
Feeding Behavior

Has a wide variety of foraging techniques. Picks up items from ground, often scratching among leaf litter; uses feet to dig for bulbs; climbs in shrubs and trees to pick berries, leaves; jumps up from ground to reach seeds and berries in low plants.


Eggs

9-10, sometimes 6-15. Creamy white to pale buff. Incubation is apparently by both sexes (female may do more), about 24 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching; are tended by both parents and led to food, but young feed themselves. Parents are very active in defense of young, putting on distraction displays to lure away predators. Development of young and age at first flight not well known. Usually one brood per year, sometimes two at low elevations or in very good conditions.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching; are tended by both parents and led to food, but young feed themselves. Parents are very active in defense of young, putting on distraction displays to lure away predators. Development of young and age at first flight not well known. Usually one brood per year, sometimes two at low elevations or in very good conditions.

Diet

Includes seeds, bulbs, leaves, berries, insects. Diet varies with season. Eats large amounts of seeds, bulbs, acorns; fair amounts of green leaves, flowers, berries; also some insects, fungi.


Nesting

Males call in breeding season to defend territory. In courtship, male faces female, fluffs feathers, droops wings. Nest site is on ground in dense cover, usually sheltered by a shrub, log, or grass clump. Nest is a shallow depression, lined with grass, pine needles, leaves, feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Unlike other North American quail, may regularly migrate in some areas, but only short distances. Migrates on foot, moving to lower elevations for winter.

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Migration

Unlike other North American quail, may regularly migrate in some areas, but only short distances. Migrates on foot, moving to lower elevations for winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Its frequent call is a loud echoing kyork or woook. Other notes include soft whistles.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
New World Quail Upland Ground Birds

Mountain Quail

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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