The Mountain Quail, Oreortyx pictus', is a small ground-dwelling bird in the New World quail family. It inhabits mountainous chapparal west of the Rocky Mountains, from the United States to Baja peninsula Mexico. They have been introduced to British Columbia in Canada, and some areas of Washington state in the USA. They can be found up to 10,000 ft.
This species is the only one in the genus Oreortyx, which is sometimes included in Callipepla. This is not appropriate, however, as the Mountain Quail's ancestors have diverged from other New World quails earlier than the bobwhites, no later than 6 mya.
The bird's average length is 26-28 cm with a wingspan of 35-40 cm) and have relatively short, rounded wings and long, featherless legs. These birds are easily recognized by their top knots, which are shorter in the female. They have a brown face, gray breast, brown back and primaries, and heavily white barred underside.
Mountain Quail primarily move about by walking, and can move surprisingly fast through brush and undergrowth. They are a non-migratory species, however may be altitudinal migrants in some mountain ranges. In the late summer, fall and winter, the adults and immature young congregate into family groups of up to 20 birds. The birds habits can be secretive. Any flight is usually short and explosive, with many rapid wingbeats followed by a slow glide to the ground. Its diet consists primarily of plant matter and seeds. The chicks are decidedly more insectivorous than adults, gradually consuming more plant matter as they mature.
Breeding among Mountain Quail is monogamous, and rarely gregarious. The female typically lays 9-10 eggs in a simple scrape concealed in vegetation, often at the base of a tree or shrub, usually close to water. Incubation lasts from 21-25 days, usually performed by the female and rarely by the male. The chicks are precocial, leaving the nest with their parents within hours of hatching.
It is not considered threatened by the IUCN, being plentiful across a wide range. However, its success is tied to sufficient habitat, which expands in cooler and more arid climate. Subfossil remains have been found e.g. at Rocky Arroyo in the Guadalupe Mountains and Shelter Cave, New Mexico, where today not enough habitat exists anymore. The bones date found from the end of the last ice age to not much more than 8000 BC. Should global warming predictions come true, it can be expected that the species will decline somewhat.