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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Montezuma Quail -- Cyrtonyx montezumae
(formerly Harlequin Quail)

RANGE: Resident, at least locally, from central and southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and extreme southwestern Texas south into Mexico.

STATUS: Locally fairly common.

HABITAT: Inhabits shaded grassy oak canyons, wooded mountain slopes with bunchgrass, and rocky ravines. Seldom goes far from pine-oak woodlands due to dependence on succulent, bulb-producing forbs that grow in pine-oak understory. Heavy grazing tends to reduce bulb-producing forbs, which are replaced by perennials that can provide adequate cover, but not the underground food reserves required during dry seasons.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Ungrazed pine-oak woodlands.

NEST: Conceals nest in a slight depression on the ground, at the base of trees, in grassy meadows, next to boulders, or under shrubs.

FOOD: Coveys typically feed in close groups, digging out bulbs of nutgrasses, wood sorrels, and other plants. Also eats acorns, seeds of legumes, grasses, and pines; fruits of shrubs and trees; and insects. Water is primarily obtained from food.

REFERENCES: Johnsgard 1975a, Leopold and McCabe 1957, Phillips et al. 1964, Terres 1980, Wallmo 1954.

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