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Can You Find the Quail in This Photo?

Published on: Jan. 29, 2011

Keep looking, they are really in there.

On one side of the lane to my house is a woodland I have restored. Under portions of that woodland are some pretty thick gooseberry thickets. I never try and walk through it, always around it. On any given sunny afternoon, I can normally count on seeing a covey of quail in the thicket closest to the lane. If we happen to find the quail on a walk or while in the timber, they rarely flush. If they do flush it is just a quick hop into the air before they go back down in the gooseberries further down the hill. Normally they just run away under the shrubs.

While you ponder the number of quail in this shrub thicket, consider that quail rely on dense shrubs every day. Without shrubs, the chances of having a sustainable quail population is slim. Like my gooseberry thicket, your shrubby cover should be dense enough that you don’t want to attempt walking through it. Yet it needs to be open enough that they can flush up through the canopy. It should be free of ground cover such as fescue or brome. It should not be overtopped by larger trees that can foil their escape attempts when they flush up out of the shrubs. Research in Missouri shows that quail stay within 75 feet of shrubby cover during the winter months. Texas research showed that quail will seldom use shrubs that are overtopped by larger trees. I think my quail read that study, because they adhere to that average!

Looking at the picture, do you wonder that quail like this type of cover? No self-respecting hawk or owl will attempt to enter it. It will greatly slow a fox or housecat enough to let the birds get away. It is perfect for them; it has no fescue or brome understory, it is still open enough for them to flush out of, and my woodland has few trees overtopping the shrubs. When quail flush, they can fly right over shrubs yet under the canopy of the taller woodland trees.

If you no longer see quail in the haunts they frequented years ago, is it because this type of cover is gone? If it is still there, has it been invaded by fescue or brome? Is it overtopped by trees?

Okay, there are four quail in the picture. Three of them are in the upper left portion of the photo. The other is about in the middle. Probably eight to 10 others were not captured in the photo, but were in the thicket, too. My point in posting the picture is to give you an idea of what quail need every single day. We refer to these areas as covey headquarters. Just like you need a home with a kitchen, bedroom and a place to relax, quail need shrubs. Period!

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Comments

On February 2nd, 2011 at 12:28pm whitew said:

Dave, thanks for the post. That is an excellent subject that I will put on the calendar for shrub planting season. Thanks for the idea!!! Look for it on March.

On February 2nd, 2011 at 10:37am Josh said:

We had quail under my parent's porch this year! And I kicked up my first covey in many years pheasant hunting a few weeks back, and even got a shot off. My hunting partner got one. They have many acres of CRP surrounded with crops and woodland. It was nice to see one in hand! Lots of pheasants, too!

On February 2nd, 2011 at 10:17am Dave Weber said:

Hi Bill, Nice photo and write up about shrubs. How about a blog sometime on success and failure stories on establishing shrub thickets. We all talk a lot about how shrubs are such a vital key in the 3 main ingredients of good habitat but speaking from experience, good detailed, exact info on how to establish those critical shrub plots, is hard to come by. In my mission to establish 72 covey headquarters on my 100 acres of upland habitat, I have hand planted 2000 shrubs a year for the past 2 years and have another 2000 ordered for this spring. Finding "experts" who have already traveled this road seems very challenging. I really find a lot of varying opinions on which herbicides to use and the timing of when to use them. How about sharing with us your thoughts on how to increase the survival rate on our shrub plantings....? Thanks .

On January 31st, 2011 at 8:39am Jeff said:

Gotta have that woody brush! I have noticed the same thing with tall tree cover and the lack of quail/rabbits. Watch those trees! If they get too big they will overshade those gooseberries.

On January 30th, 2011 at 9:20pm whitew said:

Mr. Calvert, I grew up in southeast Nebraska and they still talk about that winter taking out the local quail and pheasant population there, too. That winter was just the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. A combination of technological changes in agriculture, extreme weather, the spread of fescue and brome and the succession of shrubby cover to taller trees contributed to the demise of small game populations. Most state game agencies and other quail interests are currently working through the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, a effort by the 35 states within the range of the bobwhite, to make headway towards restoration of quail on the landscape. This was started in 2003 and grows stronger each year. We have a pretty good idea of how to bring back quail, but it has to be applied to the landscape and that is the dilemma! Thanks for your support and comment.

On January 30th, 2011 at 9:07pm whitew said:

Dear Anonymous We offer may local workshops, but get few production farmers to attend. Our best avenue to reach them so far has to been promote the economics of practices such as field borders. That is part of the reason we are number 3 in the nation for acres in field borders, even though we have fewer grain crop acres than all of our neighboring Midwest states. I think your idea of a coop is the best thing that a hunter could get involved in to promote quail or any other kind of wildlife habitat on private land. We have been looking at such efforts for several years. Our local Private Land Conservationist would be happy to work with you in providing habitat advice for a local coop effort. Thanks for the support!

On January 30th, 2011 at 6:20pm Anonymous said:

Would've liked to see a larger image ;)

On January 30th, 2011 at 5:54pm Joe Calvert said:

What a great picture and article. I hope State agencies work together. I live in Indiana and there just aren't that many quail anymore. Since the blizzard of 78, they just havent came back. Thanks for what you do! Joe

On January 30th, 2011 at 3:13pm Anonymous said:

Mr Bill First off, really enjoy every article and video you and your staff have been involved in about land management for quail. in my opinoin the coolest animal ever just getting the short end of the stick to agriculture. Curious why the MDC doesnt have landowner informational seminars thru out each county for the local landowners to better inform them of the land they have thats wasting away good habitat and money for quail. Most wouldnt even have to change the way they farm. I know first hand of many farmers who have no idea of the great programs out there about quail. Farmers from both walks of life(small and big) that have plenty of idle land thats simple wasting away to fescue that could be turned into dollars in there pockets and be a great asset to wildlife. Dont know of a single landowner who at the end yr wouldn"t enjoy a check for simply apply a little bit of land to habitat, whether in a CRP program of not. I would go as far as even being interested in doing my part in helping to form a coop of landowners who have let me hunt over the yrs to maybe start a charge.(tough chore but someone needs to start it) I grew up behind pointers and brittneys, eating fried quail thru the winter and would just like to have that same rewarding life style for my kids. Who by the way enjoyed a few quail feeds this yr. . Thanks for your hand in helping out the quail.
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