Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mountain quail

Oreortyx pictus

Common name:
mountain quail (en); codorniz-da-montanha (pt); colin des montagne (fr); codorniz picta (es); bergwachtel (de)

Order Galliformes
Family Odontophoridae

This species is found along the Pacific coast of North America, from Oregon to California, in the United States, and down to Baja California in Mexico.

Mountain quails are 26-28 cm long and have a wingspan of 35-40 cm. They weigh 190-260 g.

They are typically found in scrub-dominated communities such as chaparral or desert scrub, at altitudes of 700-3000 m. In coastal areas of northern California they may also occur near sea level. This species is also found in mixed conifer-hardwood, redwood, pine, white fir, red fir, pinyon-juniper, and hardwood forests. It may also occur in aspen stands associated with sagebrush, and in riparian and oak woodlands.

Mountain quails are primarily herbivorous, eating acorns, pine nuts, fruits and seeds of shrubs (namely Ceanothus, Arctostaphylos, Toxicodendron radicans), bulbs, seeds and leaves of weeds, forbs, and legumes. Invertebrates form a marginal part of their diet.

They breed in March-June. The nest is placed on the ground, usually concealed by the surrounding vegetation and it is usually quite close to water. The females lay 6-14 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 24-25 days. The chicks leave the nest within hours of hatching and are cared for by the parents who direct them to food instead of feeding it to them. The chicks seem to eat more insects than adults and remain together with their parents in a family group until the nest breeding season.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range and a global population of 160.000 individuals. The species suffered a large decline in the early 1900s, but hunting bans allowed the population to stabilize, with no apparent change in numbers in the last 4 decades. Although habitat destruction and fragmentation due to agricultural and construction developments may pose some threats, the species is not considered threatened at present.

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