Animal Facts

Mountain Quail

Introduction

Mountain quail maybe the most recognized type of quail. This is mostly because of its large feather on top of its head. Although they are not endangered yet, they are currently marked as a species of concern. This is mostly due to a loss of habitat from human developments of the land. Some varieties of quail eggs are considered a delicacy in parts of the world. In other parts of the world, their eggs are commonly eaten and used in recipes, especially in parts of South America. Quail are sometimes eaten for their meat too, but not usually the mountain variety. Because of this, quail are referred to as “game birds.” Because they are game birds and are protected, states have laws regulating when they can be hunted in the U.S.

Characteristics

The mountain quail is almost a flightless bird. It limits flight to short, fast movements and is faster on the ground. They travel in groups, called coveys. These coveys will have up to twenty quail in them. They like to keep company and have lots of friends around. Like all birds, the quail lays eggs. These eggs are small and light brown with no spots. Their nests are bowl shaped and usually lined with grasses.

Appearance

The feather, or knot, on the top of the head of a mountain quail is what you will notice first. It is slightly smaller in the female birds. These birds are short and rounded. Their back and wings are mostly brown. While their underside is usually gray with white. They also have brown around their face. Their beaks are short. Their legs are also short and do not have feathers on them. They have very small eyes close to their beaks. Its tail is rather short, hanging towards the ground.

Life Stages

The quail, like all other birds, are born in an egg. Its mother will typically lay about ten eggs at a time. It will then sit on these eggs in the nest, or incubate them, for around twenty-five days. Both the male and female will keep the eggs warm. These baby quail leave the nest and their parents within just hours of being born. Although the parents will lead them to food and keep protecting them a while longer. In just over a month, they are already half the size of an adult quail.

Life Span

A quail does not live very long. Typically a mountain quail will not make it to its fourth birthday. Both it and its eggs are a highly preyed upon species. Meaning most quail hatched will never reach adulthood. Those that do reach adulthood face malnutrition due to a lack of food.

Size

The quail is approximately ten inches in average length with a wingspan of up sixteen inches. The mountain quail are the largest quail of North America. But they weigh less one pound. The quail legs are short. These are relatively small birds

Habitat

The Mountain quail can be found across most of Pacific Western United States along the mountains, in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington. It prefers an evergreen or brushy habitat in higher elevations. This species is mostly stationary and does not migrate very far. Most of its travel is to higher elevations of the mountains not further distances. It will travel down the mountains during winter to avoid the colder temperatures as fall and winter arrive. They make nests usually on the ground near shrubs. They use these shrubs as covers to help hide their nests from predators flying above.

Diet

The baby mountain quail start off eating mostly insects. Then, as they grow older, they start to eat more and more plants. They also eat seeds and even fruit. The look for this food along the ground or even climb trees to find it sometimes. They also use their feet to scratch through piles of leaf and brush to find food. Mountain quail eat less insects than other types of quail. Mountain quail will drink water two to three times a day.

Friends and Enemies

Hawks and owls prey on these birds. Other predators include large cats such as the bobcat, coyotes, and foxes. Also, because of their small size, mountain quail even fall prey to smaller predators such as weasels. They must also watch out for rattlesnakes. They are friends with one another in their coveys.

Suitability as Pets

Quail are not considered good family pets because they are very skittish and hard to tame. They prefer the company of each other and not humans. Even after being raised in captivity, they will not usually become tame or eat out of vour hand like many other types of birds. So, while these birds are able to be raised at home, they are better as livestock for their eggs, not as a family pet.

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