Habitat Management for Quail, Upland Game Birds

Bobwhite quail are the most popular and abundant quail found throughout the United States. Quail habitat is diverse, but they need suitable structure to exist. Both males and females of this species have mottled brownish backs and wings. Males have a white throat and face that distinguishes them from females, which have a buff-colored throat and forehead stripe. This quail is named after their call, which sounds like “bob-white.”

Ideal quail habitat consists of mixed brush and grassland plant communities. Brushy range land mixed with bunch grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, and Indiangrass seem to be preferred habitat. In the eastern portions of the quail’s range, pine or oak savannah and coastal prairie make great habitat, especially when these areas are burned on 3 to 5 year rotation. Proper livestock grazing and brush management are great habitat management tools that can be used to maintain excellent habitat for quail.

In the past there were many more quail than we have today, but it’s hard to witness a slow shift through time. Nature changes so gradually that hunters do not even notice. People tend to assume that the way landscapes look today is “normal” and the way they should look. The relatively rapid ecological transformation from coastal prairie to a scrub forest of exotic trees, such as Chinese Tallow, over a few decades causes a huge impact on native wildlife, including bobwhite quail.

Although raccoons, egrets, skunks, hawks, fire ants, and the weather catch blame for the demise of upland game bird populations, the fundamental reason for decreasing quail and other game bird numbers is the loss of habitat. Period. Yes, quail predators can have an impact on game bird populations, but the impacts of predators becomes greater and greater as the quantity of suitable habitat becomes smaller and smaller.

Local populations of quail of these “islands” of suitable habitat become too small and can not withstand concentrated predators or catastrophic events such as droughts or flood. Therefore, isolated populations of quail have a greater possibility of becoming locally extinct. There are many challenges to managing wildlife habitat and plant communities throughout the United States because as most know nothing happens easily.

But quail populations can be restored through planning and hard work that includes sound quail habitat management. Think of it this way, if you do what you have always done then you will get what you’ve always gotten. It’s kind of like insanity; doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Won’t happen—it does not work that that way. Neither does nature. You can develop suitable quail habitat relatively easy, you just have to manage your property the way nature did.

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