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Managing Quail Habitat                                                           by Frank araGonaA           fter HMI’s ve...
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Quail Habitat


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Here is an excellent article on how to use cows to help quail, by Frank araGona

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Quail Habitat

  1. 1. Managing Quail Habitat by Frank araGonaA fter HMI’s very successful and exciting Cows and Quail workshop in Van Horn Texas this coverage. Monitor the results of your planning July, I’ve learned a lot about quail and their habitat requirements. Dr. Dale Rollins is a on the landscape as you go. quail specialist and was a designated facilitator during the two-day workshop. Much of In moist environments, grass cover can the information in this article comes directly from Dr. Rollins’ experience and expertise. become too thick for quail, which can restrict There are many quail species in North America, but for the purposes of the Cows and Quail mobility thereby decreasing habitat suitability.workshop we were primarily focused on two species: Bobwhite Quail and Scaled Quail. The Northern In this situation, it is much easier to use grazingBobwhite Quail is a species found throughout North America, and there are 21 recognized sub- and animal impact as a tool to improvespecies, the majority of which are found in the United States or Northern Mexico. Scaled Quail are ecosystem geometry. Design your grazing planconfined mostly to the Southwestern United States, with their range extending into Central Mexico. to allow for adequate residual cover, and also A major focus of our workshop was learning about the varied habitat requirements of different manage stock density such that some of thewildlife species. Along with the two species of quail described above, we also learned about the residual cover is trampled to the ground, whichhabitat requirements of pronghorn, big horn sheep, and mule deer. In broad terms, many wildlife will free up some space while improving thespecies require similar things to thrive. We chose to focus on the basics in our workshop: food, water and mineral cycle.water, cover, and home range. I Home Range: Finally, be aware of the habitat and range size of quail. In general, quailI Food: Quail are omnivores; they will eat a distance of approximately every 50 yards. are less mobile than most other wildlife species.diversity of plants and insects to meet their daily Bobwhites require the same sized brush, but at Quail have been known to move largenutritional requirements. In terms of vegetation, 5 to 25% of the land area and at distance of distances, sometimes as much as 20 miles orquail rely heavily on forbs, herbaceous every 25 yards. As a species that is restricted greater; the reasons for this are unknown.flowering plants that are not grasses. Forbs, primarily to arid rangelands, Scaled Quail have Fortunately, quail generally like to stay in a fairlytherefore, are an excellent indicator of the limited needs for dense grass cover. Sparse small home range. In the case of Bobwhite, thesuitability of an area to support bunch grasses and forbs should provide home range is generally 20 to 50 acres in size,a healthy quail population. Insects are also a sufficient grass cover for Scaled Quail, but while the Scaled home range is between 80 andgood food source for quail; therefore, it is critical Bobwhites require basketball sized 300 acres in size. If your ranch or farm isto have diverse vegetation, both in terms of bunchgrasses and annual forbs at somewhat smaller than this yet still home to quailspecies diversity and geometric growth form, higher densities. populations, consider including your neighborsto support large numbers of insects that are One key challenge for land managers in arid in some of your planning exercises. What theyaccessible to ground dwelling birds. Dr. Rollins environments is maintaining adequate grass do will also affect the hunting and wildlife valueshowed us a brief field video that demonstrated cover in grazed areas. Several strategies exist of your property. If your ranch is large enough tothe great diversity of insects that are found in a to deal with this challenge. One simple strategy accommodate quail, take a look at your landstrip of sunflowers that colonized an area that is to lower your stocking rate. And while this plan and consider if you are allowing forwas disked for this purpose. is a simple strategy, it is likely a big decision for connected corridors of habitat to allow quail most producers and should be approached with populations to intermingle and move naturallyI Water: Water should be available at a careful deliberation. First and foremost, the across the landscape.distance of half a mile between water points. manager must weigh the cost of doing so with In conclusion, cows and quail can cohabitateGIS maps can be used as a land planning tool the potential gains from additional hunting the same environment, and both can thrive. Into determine areas where water is scarce, revenues. Grazing planning is another useful arid environments, managers must be careful notwhich may help to make decisions as water way to manage grass cover. As most readers to damage the grass cover that quail require. Indevelopment progresses on the landscape. know, one useful outcome of a well developed higher rainfall areas, cattle and other domesticMany ranchers modify troughs and watering grazing plan is the ability to control residual livestock are a useful tool for managing thepoints to accommodate ground dwelling birds forage. Consider shortening your grazing landscape towards the unique requirements oflike quail. This is done by adding ramps both on periods and/or lengthening your recovery ground dwelling quail. As always, planthe exterior and interior of a trough. The exterior periods to allow for full sufficient grass accordingly and monitor your results.ramp allows the quail to get up to the trough toget a drink, and the interior ramp gives the birdsan exit if they should fall in or if they are unable This is ato reach the water from the top. quail-eye view of the kind ofI Cover: Quail also require cover, cover andwhich they use for a number of different food sourcepurposes: protection from predators, nesting, that makesfeeding, and sleeping. Here is where there are up goodsome subtle but important differences between quail habitat.Bobwhite and Scaled Quail. Scaled requirescattered brush cover, about the size of apickup truck, at 5 to 15% of the land area with a6 IN PRACTICE September / october 2012