They have very large heads and very big eyes. They will be 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) long, and weigh 5 to 7 oz (140 to 200g.) They eat bulblets and roots that they dig up, particularly bulbs of “nut grass”, as well as seeds and insects. They don’t drink, but get moisture from their food.
They both roost on the ground amidst tall grass, and build their nests there. Males will fight will sorting out territories.
In each brood, there will be 10 to 15 white eggs. Both parents look after the chicks, feeding them insects. The chicks are not very bright; they won’t eat unless trained to eat. In captivity, some breeders feed them with tweezers.
Mearns Quail stay very still when threatened, until bursting away at the last minute when you almost step on them, scaring many hunters, thus the name “Fool Quail.” When hunting Mearns Quail, you need a dog to point them out, because they hide so well and stay still.
Mearns Quail are sometimes confused with the African Harlequin Quail.