|Photo Source: Wikipedia.org|
In the rugged terrain of the western United States, a unique bird species can be found that calls the mountains its home. The Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus), a small ground-dwelling bird, is the only species of its genus, and is often mistakenly grouped with Callipepla. However, this is not accurate, as the Mountain Quail's ancestry diverged from other New World quails earlier than the bobwhites, a fact that dates back at least 6 million years.
These birds are easily recognizable by their distinctive top knots, which are shorter in the female and change color depending on the season and the location of specific populations. With an average length of 26-28 cm and a wingspan of 35-40 cm, the Mountain Quail boasts short, rounded wings and long, featherless legs. Their faces are brown, their breasts gray, their backs and primaries brown, and their undersides are heavily striped with white. The females of the species are more heavily brown on the top, with a paler red underside and wider white stripes on the sides, compared to their male counterparts. As they age, the Mountain Quail loses its multi-colored primary coverts, and by the age of 15 months, they will have only solid-colored coverts.
In conclusion, the Mountain Quail is a unique species found in the western United States, known for its distinctive top knots and varied coloring.