Family New World Quails (Odontophoridae)

Least Concern

Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae)


French: Colin arlequin German: Montezumawachtel Spanish: Colín de Moctezuma
Other common names: Harlequin Quail, Mearns's Quail (mearnsi)

Ortyx Montezumae


, 1830,



Has been considered conspecific with C. ocellatus. Here separated also from C. sallei on account of white vs bronzy-chestnut lower flank spots (3), narrow buff long streaks vs rather broad bronzy-brown streaks and broad vs narrow black bars on wing-coverts (2), white spots on upper breast sides and flanks larger, brighter and on darker grey (2), and darker chestnut mid-breast to belly (ns[1]); differs from ocellatus in white, not pale tan, spots on upper breast sides and flanks (2), chestnut vs buff-tan top to central stripe down underparts (3), and black-edged pale tan streaks vs rich chestnut long streaks on lower upperparts. Proposed race morio (from SE Sonora) subsumed within nominate montezumae. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. m. mearnsi Nelson, 1900 – SW USA (S Arizona, C New Mexico) S along Sierra Madre Occidental to NW & N Mexico (E Sonora, W Chihuahua and W Durango); disjunct populations from W Texas S to NE Mexico (N Coahuila and N Nuevo León); reported also from Nayarit, in CW Mexico.
  • C. m. montezumae (Vigors, 1830) – Sinaloa and S Durango S to Jalisco and Michoacán (W Mexico), and from Tamaulipas S to Puebla (E Mexico).
  • C. m. merriami Nelson, 1897 – Mt Orizaba, in Veracruz (EC Mexico).
  • Descriptive notes

    20–23 cm; male 168–222 g, female 122–230 g. Very distinctive head pattern; heavy spotting on flanks distinguishes from C. ocellatus.... read more


    Generally rather quiet and infrequently heard. Advertising call (produced only by male) is a loud,... read more


    Open and semi-open pine and oak woodlands, pure oak woodlands and oak grasslands at 1060–3000... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily bulbs and tubers, with insects taken seasonally; roots and tubers are taken year-round, acorns during dry season, plus insects in... read more


    In Arizona, pairing Mar–May and nesting late Jun–Sept, apparently coinciding with summer rain, but apparently earlier, from Mar... read more


    Sedentary; no elevational migrations or long-distance movements documented.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Races mearnsi and montezumae on CITES II. Total population not yet assessed, but probably... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carroll, J.P., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).