Description: Montezuma quails have a small, round head with a beak that is black on top and bluish-gray on the bottom. The back and wings are brownish-tan with black bars and spots. Unique, long, sickle-shaped claws allow them to dig easily as the short tail makes these birds weaker fliers. Males have a bold, swirling black and white face pattern with a black chin. The chest is dark brown and covered in white speckles with a tan patch down the middle. Females do not have the bold black and white facial pattern and are mostly brown. Their chest is a light brown with thin black markings. Juveniles are similar to females, but their underside is gray with white markings and black spots.
Size: They grow to a length of about nine inches (22.9 cm), have a wingspan up to 17 inches (43.2 cm) and can weigh up to eight ounces (226.8 gr).
Behavior: They are found in small flocks that roost together, search for food all day and do not migrate. When a predator approaches, these quails crouch in thick cover where their body pattern blends in, stay very still and will fly off after an exploding leap; they can jump over 6.5 feet (2 m) straight up. If possible these birds will run when threatened before they will fly.
Diet: Diet consists of things found on the ground such as wood sorrel bulbs, flat sedges, insects, grass seeds, grasses and the fruit of forest trees. The sickle-shaped claws on the feet are used for digging up any underground food but primarily roots and bulbs of plants.
Senses: Quails use a keen sense of eyesight in order to search for food and to detect oncoming predators. Communication between the birds is relayed through calls and chirps from others in the flock making their sense of hearing critical for safety.
Communication: Four main specialized vocalizations are used to communicate. After being separated, both males and females call out to find each other and regroup. When searching for a female during breeding season, males produce a high pitched, shrill sound and they produce a clucking noise when feeding. Flocks will create a soft call to confuse possible predators when scattering.
Reproduction: Nesting begins anytime between June and August. The unusual nests built on the ground are dome-shaped and constructed of woven grass with only one opening. Both males and females provide incubation to the clutch that generally consists of about ten eggs. The incubation period is around 25 days and when born, the young already have all of their feathers, need little parent care and can run quickly to cover if a predator is near. Parents teach them how to forage and what is appropriate to consume the first week after hatching, after which time the young can feed alone.
Habitat/range: Montezuma quails inhabit open woods, slopes of hills and canyons in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and in Mexico near the Sierra Madre Mountains,
Status: Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.