Family New World Quails (Odontophoridae)

Least Concern

Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus)


French: Colin des montagnes German: Bergwachtel Spanish: Colín serrano

Ortyx picta


, 1829,

New California = Linn Co., Oregon, USA


Since name pictus shown to apply to dark coastal populations#R, name palmeri (formerly applied to same populations#R) is regarded as a subjective synonym of nominate#R; paler interior populations, earlier referred to by name pictus#R, now take next available name, plumifer#R. Proposed race eremophilus (SW USA and extreme NW Mexico) apparently invalid#R#R; here incorporated in plumifer. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. p. pictus (Douglas, 1829) – W USA coastal mountains from SW Washington S to C California; also (probably introduced) Vancouver I (SW Canada) and W Washington (NW USA).
  • O. p. plumifer (Gould, 1837) – interior ranges of W USA from S Washington S to W Nevada and S California, and extreme NW Mexico (extreme N Baja California).
  • O. p. russelli A. H. Miller, 1946 – Little San Bernardino Mts, in S California.
  • O. p. confinis Anthony, 1889 – N Baja California, in NW Mexico.
  • Introduced locally in W Idaho (NW USA), where may be native, too.

    Descriptive notes

    26–28 cm; 189–290 g, with sexes apparently similar, though male averages heavier. Largest quail of North America. Long black sword-shaped crest highly distinctive... read more


    Most common vocalization, the rallying call, is a far-carrying, loud ringing “kee-oh”, while the... read more


    Variable, depending on population: mixed evergreen forest and chaparral; brushy oak and manzanita;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds and bulbs, but also fruits, flowers and green herbage; total of 85 species of plant recorded in diet including nuts of trees (... read more


    Season Mar–Jul, occurring earlier in S, later in N, with coveys typically disbanding in Feb/Mar; peak hatching May–Jun, but... read more


    Less sedentary than other related species; evidence of altitudinal migrations of more than 50 km in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Mace Lande: Safe. Overall population levels stable, probably numbering over 1,000,000 birds, with density estimates of between nine... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carroll, J.P., Boesman, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus). 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 23 January 2020).