The retiring and cryptic Montezuma Quail is among the least-studied birds of the perennial grasslands mixed with oak woodland of the American Southwest. Although males have bright, contrasting plumage, they are almost always invisible in their grassland habitats. Individuals are often first detected as they leap straight up from the observer's feet and fly in a brief, arching flight for 30 to 100 meters and land, usually in dense cover. People can hike for days in suitable habitat and never observe these quail, unknowingly walking past many individuals. Difficulty in observing Montezuma Quail may be interpreted as an indication that the species is rare or not present in an area—however, trained dogs working the same area may locate these quail.
Because the Montezuma Quail is so difficult to observe, its biology is poorly understood. Information on most aspects of its life history are few and limited. Nonetheless, some details of its life history have been published (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). Other studies of this species were conducted primarily for game management (13, 14, 15); several were innovative, using recorded vocalizations, night-vision devices and trained hunting dogs to assist in detection of the birds (16, 17, 18, 19). Recent studies in Mexico have added significantly to understanding of diet and habitat use (20, 21, 22). Several articles in the popular press (23, 24, 25, 11) have summarized much of this literature. Other common names for this species include: Harlequin Quail, Fool's Quail, Crazy Quail, Massena, Codorniz Pinta, Black Quail, and Mearns Quail (26).