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Quail in Oregon

Mountain Quail

Oreortyx picta

Mountain Quail Mountain quail are native to Oregon and found on both sides of the Cascades.  These birds were declining or extirpated throughout much of their historical eastside range.  A multi-agency effort to translocate mountain quail to their former range has resulted in the recovery of eastside populations to the point where limited hunting is allowed in some areas. 

Mountain Quail Translocation Project

Appearance:  Mountain quail are the largest North American quail.  Genders are similar in appearance, sporting a straight head plume, chestnut throat patch, and white barring on chestnut flanks. 

Behavior:  The monogamous mountain quail has the potential for extreme productivity, utilizing the technique of laying 2 clutches at once.  Both the male and the female may incubate separate, simultaneous clutches of 10-11 eggs.  Mountain quail exhibit a seasonal altitudinal migration, nesting at higher elevations than they occupy in the winter. 

Habitat:  Mountain quail thrive in the steep natural brushlands of southwestern Oregon and are also found in northwestern Oregon when suitable habitat is created by logging, fire or other disturbance. Eastside populations are strongly dependent on brushy and diverse riparian habitat.  Improvements to riparian (streamside) habitat management have likely contributed to more stable eastside populations. 

Range:  Mountain quail might be found in any county of the state, though they are notoriously secretive and difficult to survey.  Based on harvest returns and summer inventories by ODFW biologists, the greatest abundance occurs in southwestern Oregon, with numbers gradually decreasing as one moves north.  The Columbia Basin, Wallowa County and portions of central Oregon likely host the most abundant mountain quail flocks in the east part of the state. 

Distribution Map (jpg)

Hunting:  The mountain quail is one of Oregon's lesser hunted upland species. 

  • Southwestern Oregon provides the best mountain quail hunting in the state. Because of the brushy and often steep nature of mountain quail habitat, and the tendency for birds to run in heavy cover, they are among the most difficult of Oregon's upland birds to hunt successfully.  Since coveys may be widely separated, a popular hunting method involves driving logging roads until birds are seen at which time hunters stop to hunt on foot. Once a covey is located it will probably not be far away on future visits.
  • Eastern Oregon mountain quail populations are increasing thanks to many years of translocation efforts from southwest Oregon sources.  However, not all eastern Oregon counties are open to mountain quail hunting, and the eastside seasons are more restrictive. 
  • Mountain Quail hunting seasons (jpg)


Valley (California) Quail

Callipepla californica

Valley QuailThe valley quail is a native species originally confined to the counties bordering California and Nevada. They were transplanted to other areas of the state so long ago (beginning as early as 1870) that most Oregonians do not realize they were introduced in most of Oregon.

Valley quail are adaptable birds and may be found associated with agricultural and urban areas, as well as in riparian habitats located miles from human habitation. Within these areas, however, valley quail habitat needs are rather specific. Valley quail feed on a wide variety of plant species, most of which we know as weeds. They need a combination of brushy escape cover with adequate roosting areas (off the ground) and more open areas for feeding. They are seldom found far from water.

Valley quail are somewhat vulnerable to severe winter conditions, but populations have generally been fairly stable over a long period of time in eastern Oregon. Because they nest somewhat later than most other upland species, they often are unaffected by late spring storms which can reduce nesting success and chick survival for other species. In western Oregon numbers declined during the late 1970s, probably due to changing agriculture, but have remained relatively stable since.

Valley quail are among Oregon's most widely distributed game birds. You may find them associated with pheasants on agricultural land, or with chukars along brushy stream courses in sage brush environments, or by themselves wherever their specific habitat needs are met. They are most often hunted in conjunction with other species but can provide excellent hunting when pursued as a primary species.

Valley quail are often detected by their distinctive call which seems to say "Chicago". They are a covey-loving bird and wintering groups may number over 100. Quail and brushy environments go together like ham and eggs, so a good dog is an especially useful companion for hunting valley quail.

Distribution Map (jpg)


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