Tuesday, 24 February 2015

B.O.T.D. Mountain Quail

B.O.T.D. Feb 24, 2015

Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus)

Very much creatures of the western mountains, these largest of our North American quail are noted for their seasonal movements up and down the slopes. Their journeys are not long - just 20 to 40 miles or so. But, surprisingly, the birds travel every inch of that distance on foot.
Far from being a forced march, the trek more closely resembles a leisurely jaunt. In spring and summer, mountain quail nest and rear their young in undergrowth along the foaming streams of high mountain glens at elevations  ranging from 1500 to 10000 feet. Then, in late summer and early fall, the birds move gradually down the slopes to lower valleys and canyons, where they escape the extremes of high-altitude winter weather. When spring returns, they go up the mountains again, striding on sturdy legs, feeding and conversing, resting and roosting along the way.

Mountain Quail can fly, of course. Like other quail, they have short rounded wings that are arched and strong for quick takeoffs - from the ground into full flight in just an instant. But for the most part, whether seeking safety beneath the almost impenetrable brushy cover in which they live or traveling long distances, they seem to prefer to walk or run.