Quail are the largest of the quail species in North America, but given their
preference of thick brushy cover and tendency to hide or freeze when human
intruders approach, they are often less noticed than some of their more
well-known quail relatives like the
California Quail or Gambel's Quail.
They are found in mountainous areas of the far western United States.
Habitat: Found in montane forests with thick
underbrush, in disturbed areas with shrubby secondary growth, and riparian
Diet: Feeds heavily on plant material, especially
seeds, bulbs and tubers, leaves, acorns, berries, buds, and flowers.
They will also sometimes feed on insects.
Behavior: Generally feeds on the ground or
relatively close to the ground. They will scratch through leaves or
dirt for food, make shallow digs for bulbs and tubers, or clamber through
low shrubbery or other vegetation. Birds are gregarious outside of the
breeding season, forming small coveys of 15-25 birds. As with other
quail, they prefer to run rather than fly, with flight typically restricted
to short bursts to escape danger.
Nesting: The nest is on the ground in very dense
vegetative cover, usually next to the base of a shrub, a stump, a tree, or
other object which provides cover. The nest is a simple depression on
the ground lined with grass, plant down, leaves, and/or moss. Both
parents help raise and defend the young.
Song: The male sings a very loud KEE-ar.
Coveys with dispersed individuals often utter a loud clucking intended to
reconstitute the covey.
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout most of its range. However, birds at higher elevations may
move to lower elevations in winter.
Similar in structure and some plumage characteristics to
California Quail and
Mountain Quail will visit feeder setups with grain or seeds on the ground,
primarily in suburban or rural areas with thick surrounding vegetative
Conservation Status: Populations of Mountain Quail
are considered stable in much of its range. The species is considered
to be of "least concern" by
the IUCN, and signifcant numbers are harvested by hunters in California and
Oregon. However, Idaho populations have evidently disappeared, and
there is evidence of decline in other parts of its northern range.
Image Information: Watercolor painting from Game
Birds of California - By Joseph Grinnell, Harold Bryant, and Tracey Storer,
1918 - University of California Semicentennial Publications - Public domain,
copyright expired in the United States.