Montezuma Quail

Cyrtonyx montezumae

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 2000
  • Mark R. Stromberg

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Montezuma Quail.
Adult male Montezuma Quail

Known also as Harlequin Quail, Fool's Quail, and Mearns Quail, the gentle, retiring, cryptic Montezuma Quail is probably the least-studied bird of the perennial grasslands and oak woodlands 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, then crash-land and tumble. One can hike for days in suitable habitat and never observe these quail, unknowingly walking past many coveys.

Because it is so difficult to observe, this quail is poorly known and periodically has been thought to be rare. Data on most aspects of its life history are few and limited. Nonetheless, details of some aspects of its life history have been published (Fuertes 1903, Swarth 1909, Miller 1943c, Wallmo 1954, Leopold and McCabe 1957, Gutierréz et al. 1983, Albers and Gehlbach 1990, Stromberg 1990). Other studies of this species were conducted primarily for game management (Bishop 1964, Brown Brown 1979c, Brown 1982c); several were innovative, using recorded vocalizations and trained hunting dogs to assist in detection of the birds (Bishop and Hungerford 1965, Levy et al. 1966, Brown 1978l). Several recent articles (Brown 1989c, Zimmerman 1991b, Hagelin 1998) for the popular press summarize much of this literature.

Recommended Citation

Stromberg, M. R. (2000). Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.