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Are You Seeing Quail or Turkey Broods?

Published on: May. 27, 2012

Last night during our evening walk, my 10-month-old German Shorthair pup found a brood of turkey and a brood of quail in the same field on my Osage County farm. The young turkey poults were big enough to fly, but the quail chicks just melted into the vegetation. Without my pup and his nose, I would have never known those birds were there.

Going back one year ago, floodwaters from record rainfall and the Corps of Engineers breach of the Mississippi River levee at Birdspoint were receding on several hundred thousand acres of the Missouri Bootheel. The epic flooding destroyed hundreds of turkey and other bird nests and drowned or starved adult quail and turkey who were unable to fly far enough to escape the floodwaters. During this same time many other parts of Missouri were experiencing above-average rainfall and cooler temperatures, which does not bode well for birds that nest on the ground.

More Birds!

Today, with the warm, dry spring, we see a different story unfolding. Not only am I seeing broods, but staff report seeing multiple broods of turkey in the Bootheel. While on a Bootheel county dove survey route in the same area, one of our staff members reported hearing more quail calling than ever before. Many landowners are also reporting that they are seeing or hearing more quail than usual.

One of my neighbors in Osage County called last weekend to report seeing his first brood of quail, which likely had recently hatched, as they were still unable to fly. While the peak hatch for quail is less than a month away, it is not unusual for early quail nest attempts such as this one. The hope for this Osage County brood was diminished after Monday night's torrential rain and large hail hit that farm. Those small chicks are not able to maintain their own body temperature yet, and if their mother could not keep them dry during the rain, they probably perished.

With the very mild winter and quick warm-up this spring, we may see nesting peak a few days earlier than normal. Our staff have radio-collared a number of wild quail on conservation areas in Southwest Missouri and have found quail initiating nests during the second week of May, so if the nests survived they should be hatching this week.

 Weather Has A Negative Impact on Birds

Hopefully, the mild weather continues and our ground-nesting birds see one of the best hatches in recent years. They deserve it. according to Dr. Pat Guinan, Missouri State climatologist, "Beginning in the early 1980s, an unprecedented wet period has evolved in Missouri. Since 1981, 18 out of 28 years (about 64 percent) had above normal precipitation and 16 out of the past 21 winters (about 76 percent) have been wetter than normal.” And the Department has shown that the population of ground-nesting birds declines during above-normal precipitation and extreme weather events.

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Comments

On June 22nd, 2012 at 6:02pm Jerry Tracy said:

Good news. I was out today doing some spot spraying of Sericia Lespedeza, thistles and MF rose and jumped a nice brood of Quail. Looked to be at least 10 little ones and I think two adult birds. And get this, I jumped 'em right in the middle of a bunch of rank fescue. Got lots of good cover, NWSG and covey headquarters areas and the silly birds are out in that nasty ole fescue. Go figure!! The little fellers were about the size of a bluebird, maybe a tad smaller and they could fly but not real well.

On June 1st, 2012 at 12:45pm Hickman said:

Haven't seen any turkey broods yet on the farm in Newton County, but have several hens and toms running the hay field. Looks like our owl population has had an increase though.

On June 1st, 2012 at 12:22pm Jerry Tracy said:

Thats great news Bill! While I've not seen any broods of quail yet, I have seen at least one single in my front yard just two days ago and my neighbor said that he almost hit a quail with his pickup just a quarter mile or so down the road yesterday morning during the rain. Not hearing any whistleing at all and haven't for about 3 weeks now which is about normal. One question I have is if they attempt a second nest, will the males begin calling again? Lets hope for a continued "normal" spring and summer as far as temps and precip goes Also looking forward to coming up to Bradford this month for the habitat seminars.
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