Also Goes By: Montezuma Quail, Fool’s Quail, Harlequin Quail
The Mearns look is certainly one of a kind. A small bird, weighing about 6 ounces, with a round body and short tale this Harlequin has a dark chest that is stunningly spattered with white spots and a series of bars and streaks on its back. The males will be a bolder black color with a more intricate facial pattern while the female will have a less distinguished head pattern and be brown in color. Juvenile birds will closely resemble the females.
They prefer the mountainous areas of Arizona and south central and southwestern New Mexico for the dense grass cover. There, the Mearns enjoy dining on the underground tubers and bulbs of nut sedges and wood sorrel, capping off a meal with insects and grass seeds. When searching these birds out, it is wise to look for signs of small holes left behind from their digging and scratching out a good meal.
As the Fool’s Quail, they give quite a startle to the unwitting hunter as they explode in an aberration of brightly colored wings at a close distance. The Mearns will make an almost metallic and wavering call that lacks the shrillness or alarm of some other bird sounds. Because they flush at such close range and stick together in their covey tightly, having a dog along for the hunt is invaluable.