The largest quail found in the United States, the Mountain Quail has a characteristic that makes it unique - it has two straight feathers that arch over the back. Also a species pertaining to the New World Quail, it can be found as high up as 10.000 feet above sea level – hence its name. They are non-migratory birds other than their seasonal expeditions up and down the slopes. Appearance wise the two sexes are very similar, although the plume (or top knot) of the female is significantly shorter than that of the male. The striking crest of the Mountain Quail consists of just 2 feathers, where its cousins tend to have up to 6. It is black in color, as are the edges of its chestnut throat, with grey wings and tail, whilst its face has a more browny reddish tint.
They prefer habitat in brushy clearings or foresting areas. With their mountainous habitat these quails can be very difficult to see, but hearing is a different matter entirely, especially in the spring and summer when the males high pitched calls ring out and can be heard from a great distance. They can move surprisingly quickly on foot and can also reach respectable speeds in flight, although these are only undertaken in short, explosive bursts.
Their eating habits centre mainly around plant life, together with seeds, fruits, flowers and a selection of insects. They love to forage for different targets dependent upon the season and therefore whatever is in its abundance at the time, such as acorns in the fall, and mushrooms in the winter.
The female of the species will, as a norm, lay between 8 and 12 eggs in its nest, constructed a simple scrape, usually amongst concealed vegetation. The chicks hatch over a 3 day period at some point in the fourth week, and these downy youngsters are ready to leave within hours. They can very quickly feed for themselves, although they do rely on adult quails to direct them to the best supply locations.
The major predators to this impressive creature are hawks, owls and domestic cats, while nests tend to get raided by squirrels, skunks, snakes, jays and ravens.
Hunting Tips & Tricks
Sometimes Mountain Quail can be impossible to hunt during the late season, because they hate having their toes in the snow and therefore they will try to stand before the snow line. During the late season, Mountain, California and Gambel’s Quail can be found in the same canyon. This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. In case you want to find out more tips & tricks about this species of quail, read more about it in our section.
Here are some interesting facts about this species: Mountain quails are very secretive birds, therefore spotting one is an amazing experience. They are unique among their family for moving up and down the slopes of the mountains. Mountain quails are also monogamous and although their secretive nature makes it difficult to accurately census, it has clearly experienced a great decline in the past 50 years in parts of its range.
The Mountain Quail’s call is loud and consists of two syllables, almost sounding like “quee-ark”. The bird with an exclamation mark on top of its head has a clear and distinct call.