WatchList Species Account for Montezuma Quail
(Cyrtonyx montezumae)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Montezuma Quail

Photo: ©

Retiring, cryptic, and difficult to detect, the Montezuma Quail is a bird of the perennial grasslands and oak woodlands of the American Southwest, where it is found in southern Arizona and New Mexico, with small and scattered populations in western Texas.


The main part of its range is Mexico, where it is found throughout the western part of that country at elevations of 3,280 to 9,840 feet. This quail is resident throughout its range, forming coveys during the non-breeding season.


Primarily a ground feeder, the Montezuma Quail uses its remarkably long claws to dig up food, dining largely on underground tubers, acorns, and sedges. In Arizona, its breeding cycle coincides with the summer rains, which produce food, shelter, and nesting sites.


The species disappears wherever overgrazing and invasion by non-native plants has degraded its habitat. Increasing urbanization in southern Arizona also destroys quail habitat. Population size and trends are unknown.


In some years Montezuma Quail can be quite abundant, and studies indicate that increases in winter rainfall and quail abundance in the following fall are related. Hunting, both in the U.S. and Mexico, may have a major effect on quail populations.