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Montezuma Quail Cyrtonyx montezumae

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Montezuma Quail is a compact (23 cm length), secretive inhabitant of montane oak, pine-oak, pine, and pinyon-juniper woodlands with a grassy understory, as well as nearby grasslands. It breeds from west Texas to southeastern Arizona and south to Oaxaca, Mexico at elevations of 3,500 to 10,000 feet (1,060-3,000 m). The former name, Harlequin Quail, refers to the male’s strikingly patterned plumage including a black and white face pattern, black belly with white spots, barred wings, and streaked brown back. The crown is buffy and the bill and legs are slaty blue. The female is pale brown with lighter streaks above, some dark mottling on the back, and just a suggestion of the male’s face pattern. Immatures resemble the adult female. Although a birder may come across a single bird, pairs, family groups, or covies of up to a couple dozen individuals are more likely to be encountered. Montezuma Quail often reveal their presence with their calls, including a series of similar or slightly descending whistles and a wheezy whistle similar to the call of a Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius ). Even close at hand, the birds can be very difficult to see, frequently crouching until almost stepped upon by the observer then exploding into flight at the last moment. Nesting generally occurs from late June to mid-September and is tied to summer rainfall. A female will lay up to 14 eggs and the incubation period is 25-26 days.

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Male buzz calls

© Geoffrey A Keller

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  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-breeding

Recommended Citation

Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/monqua