Skip to Content

Montezuma Quail

These buffy birds have gotten their name from Aztec emperor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.

With a small U.S. distribution and secretive habits, the Montezuma Quail is often hard for birders to see, though well worth the effort for its beautiful plumage. A bird of arid country, the Montezuma Quail bathes in dust rather than water, although they come to water sources each day to drink.

Montezuma Quail are taken by both Cooper’s Hawks and Northern Goshawks. Winter storms also likely cause mortality. Few Montezuma Quail have been banded, so their lifespan in the wild is unknown, although they have lived up to seven years in captivity.


Description of the Montezuma Quail


The Montezuma Quail is a chunky quail with a very short tail, rounded wings, and a rounded crest on the head.

-Chestnut belly.
-Gray flanks with white spots.
-Bold black and white face pattern.

Montezuma Quail

Photograph © Sam Crowe


Mostly brownish above and pinkish-brown below.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles resemble females but are heavily mottled with black.


Oak canyons and mountain slopes.


Bulbs, seeds, and insects.


Forages on the ground.


Resident in parts of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.

Fun Facts

Montezuma Quail are secretive and poorly studied.

Males and females pair up for at least the breeding season, but it is unknown if they stay together longer.


Usually silent, but occasionally produces owl-like or insects-like sounds.


Montezuma Quail will come to water sources.


Similar Species

  • Male distinctive.  Other quail lack the rounded crest.


The nest is on the ground with a dome of grass over it.

Number: 10-12.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:  
– Young hatch at 25-26 days.
Young fledge (leave the nest) shortly after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.


Distribution of the Montezuma Quail



About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook