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Northern Bobwhite Quail Partner Workspace

Working Lands for Wildlife: Northern Bobwhite

WLFW Quail MapThe Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is often referred to as an “edge” species, seeking habitat where crop fields intersect with woodlands, pastures and old fields. Historically, land use favored bobwhite, but changes in land use and how lands are managed have caused the bird’s numbers to dip by more than 80 percent over the last 60 years.

For example, the southeastern United States used to be considered premiere quail hunting habitat and wild quail were common. This drastic decline is due primarily to the loss of quality early successional habitat (i.e. native grasses, legumes, weeds, briars, and shrubs). Changes in agricultural practices, lack of management, and other land-use change, have led to dramatic fragmentation of high quality habitats.

Research shows that closed canopy or unburned pine stands provide poor quality habitat for bobwhites, and other grassland species. These stands may also serve as ecological sinks (i.e. high predation rates) thereby reducing bobwhite survival, even on adjacent high quality habitats. When appropriately applied, forest thinning and frequent prescribed fire mimic the ecosystem processes that once occurred naturally across landscapes to create and maintain savanna habitats. Without thinning, tree canopies close and shade-out ground cover. Without frequent prescribed fire, grasses and forbs are replaced by woody plants and forest litter. Appropriately timed thinning and burns reduce hazardous fuels and potential economic loss while improving stand quality and overall forest health.

The Working Lands For Wildlife: Northern Bobwhite projects focus on restoring quail habitat on working agricultural landscapes. In addition to quail, restoring this habitat type across the Pine Savanna and Grasslands landscape benefits numerous songbirds, rabbits, wild turkey, deer, and many other wildlife species.  Habitat management practices improve water quality, reduces soil erosion, and can enhance local economies by stimulating quail hunting and wildlife viewing. Practices will be directed at establishing and maintaining habitat for several at-risk species as well. These include pollinators, Gopher Tortoise, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman's Sparrow, Eastern Indigo Snake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Pine Snake, and Pocket Gopher.

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