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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Quails on the High Plains

Authors
item Dabbert, C. Brad - TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
item Lucia, Duane - TEXAS PARKS & WILDLIFE
item Mitchell, Robert

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 9, 2005
Publication Date: February 1, 2007
Citation: Dabbert, C., Lucia, D.R., Mitchell, R. 2007. Quails on the High Plains. Book Chapter. Texas Quails : Ecology and Management Chapter 13 - pp. 233-247.

Interpretive Summary: Two species of quail, northern bobwhite and scaled quail, occur in the Texas High Plains. In the region, northern bobwhite populations have been increasing at an average annual rate of 2.1% in recent decades and scaled quail populations have been declining at an average annual rate of 1.1%. The population success of both species depends on habitat availability. Intensive cotton production has fragmented habitat and limited habitat availability. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has increased the total acres of grassland in the region, but management of CRP has not favored quail habitat. In native grasslands, prescribed fire and grazing can be important tools for managing quail habitat and the combined impact of these tools may provide additional benefit. Burning patches within larger pastures attracts cattle, increases forbs, and creates islands of diversity. These habitat changes increase seed production and promote insects which are needed for the high-protein diet necessary for brood rearing. Developing prescriptions for habitat management and improving our understanding of quail demographics is needed to effectively manage quails in the Texas High Plains.

Technical Abstract: The Southern High Plains of Texas are on the southern end of the North American Great Plains and occupy about 20 million acres. The climate is semi-arid, with long-term (90-year) average annual precipitation at Lubbock of 18.9 inches. Two species of quail, northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata), occur in the Texas High Plains. Northern bobwhite populations have been slowly increasing in the region during the last few decades, with Breeding Bird Survey data indicating an average annual rate of increase of 2.11% from 1966 to 2000. In contrast, scaled quail populations appear to be declining in the region, with Breeding Bird Survey data indicating an average annual rate of decline of 1.1% from 1966 to 2000. The population success of both species depends on habitat availability. Intensive agricultural activity, specifically cotton production, has fragmented habitat and limited all aspects of habitat availability. The Conservation Reserve Program has increased the total acres of grassland in the region, but habitat quality has not been optimized. In native rangeland, prescribed fire and grazing can be important tools for managing quail habitat and the combined impact of these tools may provide additional benefit. Burning patches within larger management units attracts herbivores, reduces grass standing crop, increases forb diversity, and creates islands of diversity. These increases in forbs provide not only increased seed production, but likely promote invertebrate diversity for the high-protein diet necessary for brood rearing. This management strategy can be effectively utilized in the Texas High Plains. Developing prescriptions for habitat management and improving our understanding of quail demographics is needed to effectively manage quails in the Texas High Plains.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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