Monday, December 13, 2010

Mearns' Quail = Montezuma Quail

When the phone rings and there's an incredibly important specimen being reported, it's hard to concentrate. News of a road-killed Montezuma Quail at the rest stop where all of the sapsuckers have been seen recently. Matt's grad school years were spent tracking Montezuma Quails in the Davis Mountains, so he was quite interested in seeing the bird. In the interest of specimen documentation and, honestly, a brilliant opportunity to study a bird in the hand, I was thrilled.

The hardest part about the drive was not knowing whether or not the bird would a) be there, and b) be intact. Ninety minutes of nerves!

1: Slate gray flanks with white spots.
Rusty cinnamon breast and belly.
Black legs, lower belly and vent.

2: The facial pattern indicates that the bird is male.
The poofy crown feathers concealed some pin feathers.

3: Streaky crown from above, slightly tousled from the passing cars.

4: Disney's version of "Sleeping Beauty" pales in comparison.

5: Big, scratchy, kicky claws. All the better to dig at roots with.

6: There's a new primary feather growing in that gap, if you look closely.

A quick note on these roadkill posts: please read the commentary on anything tagged 'roadkill' (someday there may be a separate page) because specimen salvage does still require permits. This bird, as with all other dead ones that cross my path, will go to the Texas A&M Wildlife Cooperative Collection.


  1. Ah, the feet. The largest feet of any North American quail species to help facilitate the foraging methods and preferences unique of all the NA quail.

    MOQU feed nearly entirely on sub-terrainian food matter, i.e. tubers, forbs, etc. (like Wild Turkey...sort of)
    They do however eat insects during breeding season, as insects are a greatly sufficient source of protein that is needed.

    They do occasionally take pine nuts as well.


  2. Great photos of a great specimen. Congratulations, Heidi, you earned it.

  3. Now, just need to get her a Val Verde Co. MOQU.

    Got her south Edwards Co while I worked BCVI for Extension.

    So glad the bird was in this shape by the time she got to it. Could have been worse.

    I joked with a guy that this MOQU is next to that Green-tailed Towhee in the freezer; the bird specimens look better than any food we still have in there

  4. Excellent photos and a very nice take.