State of the Bobwhite Quail in Missouri - 2012

2012 proved to be another one of those years tough on quail in many areas of the state. While many of us thought that the drier spring helped produce one of the best quail hatches in recent memory, our hopes were soon dashed when the dry spring turned into the drought of a lifetime.

For those areas not received enough rainfall in July to keep vegetation going, the drought took its toll on the insect population so necessary to fuel the engine that turns a quail chick into an adult bird. 90% of a quail chick’s diet from hatching and into the colder fall months consists of insects. By the end of July in Osage County where I live, the nights were eerily quiet with the lack of insect chitter chatter. If you walked most fields during the daytime there were no insects to be seen. Our friends in Texas noted that their insect biomass dropped 98% when their 2011 drought hit and they suffered nearly an 87% drop in quail numbers.

While there are bright spots in Missouri, several of those appear to be connected with decent July rains that may have keep vegetation and insects going through the last heat wave in early August. Portions of Gasconade County right next to Osage County had some decent July rainfall according to NOAA weather statistics. And I have reports from landowners there that their bird populations were up or at least stable. While in Osage County, we were losing white oak in the timber from the heat and dry.

We can see the same thing looking at portions of the Missouri bootheel and Northwest Missouri’s Livingston County, which had some of the best quail populations in the state this fall according reports from hunters. They had some decent July rains.

To add insult to injury, the drought burden was temporarily eased for many parts of the state when Hurricane Issac ended August with three days of cooler temperatures and rain. Unfortunately, we know that some new broods were lost during this time due to a radio-collared quail project we have in Southwest Missouri. Quail chicks cannot regulate their own body temperature during the first few weeks of their lives and if they get wet and cold they could perish. We also know that we will lose those quail chicks if they are not out feeding in the cold wet vegetation, but staying dry under their mother. If they don’t feed for 3 days, they will weaken and likely not have enough energy to forage once the vegetation dries out.

On my own farm, I knew of two quail broods that had hatched as early as late May. I continued to see them up through the last week of July, right before the last wave of 100 degree plus heat hit us. I have not seen the birds since. Whether they moved someplace where they could find more insects or perished I cannot say. However, during October, I canvassed the neighborhood conducting early morning covey counts and found three coveys about 1 mile from my farm. Whether these birds came from my farm or not will never be known.

With talk of continued drought into the summer of 2013, there is hope that the heat and dry experienced in 2012 will not be as severe this time around. And yes I am frequently accused of being an eternal optimist - quail enthusiasts need to be!!!

Key Messages: 
Missourians care about conserving forests, fish and wildlife.

Comments

I've been watching a nice

I've been watching a nice covey of about 15 birds just down the road from me all winter long, seen them about a week ago. And I've flushed a small covey here on my place this winter as well. I'd say here in my part of extreme northern Greene county that the population is up a bit or at least stable.

The theme of this post was

The theme of this post was not about habitat, but about bird response to weather conditions in 2012. I apologize if I did not make it clear that I was discussing population response where we had habitat management for quail. And whether you want to believe it or not extreme drought has been documented to drop bird numbers, just as we saw in the 1988 population crash.

I am totally on the habitat bandwagon. We have well over a hundred documented cases that where landowners or the Department is managing for quail that the birds respond. The Missouri bootheel is a perfect example, where thousands of acres of native grass field borders have been installed and the quail populations are probably the highest in the state has seen in modern times.

What we have said in the past is that if that habitat needs of quail are met they will live and die in a quarter-mile or where they hatched. But we have also shared that the birds do move based on our radio-collar studies.

 

Denise, typically a bird of

Denise, typically a bird of prey will go to a tree adjacent to the field where it captured its prey. They typically are not wanting to expend more energy than needed to find a feeding perch after a capture.

Just to frame this for

Just to frame this for you...We have had the hottest, driest summer in 60 years here this past year. In the past 10 days we have had almost 24 inches of snow. On the way home outside Columbia with my infant daughter last week, I saw a covey of about 8 quail scuttlebutting out of the road into a brushy draw on the side of the road. If you know anything about the life cycle and biology of these birds, its pretty amazing that they are around at all. (let alone with all the insults that man and mother nature throw at them). I suppose thats why seeing them always injects me with a newfound sense of hope each time, and a belief that all things living will always make it in their own way.
I guess that why I have the unnerving need to get up at 5:30am when its 30 degrees out and follow a hyperactive dog through the most godawful briars and rough country draws imaginable while chasing them. I just need to make sure they are still there.

We live on the outskirt of

We live on the outskirt of St. James in Phelp County and this past weekend I found a dead quail on our property. This is the first time since I was a little girl that I have seen one. It's neck was tore up and I believe as I was going through our gate into the woods I scared a hawk out of the top of the trees. I found the quail under the tree where the hawk was sitting. It was very exciting to me to see the quail because it has been a long time since I have seen one. If the hawk carried it from somewhere else, how far could it have carried it?

Raptor bird of prey and

Raptor bird of prey and Crows. They do more than all the other Predators and like of habitat put to gather. It is habitat I hear that all the time, it is not habitat but You just keep thinking that and watching your upland game Vanish. People have been brainwashed to think habitat, It is easy to blame habitat, that will never bring back the bobwhite!

I have been hunting quail for

I have been hunting quail for over 45 yrs and unfortunately things are not getting better.Like Bill stated if you found an area with birds there seemed to be a good population and yet you could go to an area that looked exceptional and not even find one covey.I really noticed a lack of seeds in the weed patches and food plots so not only were there a shortage of summer insects but a shortage of seeds for winter carry over.
I sometimes feel helpless in that I just do not feel enough people
understand how much our enviroment has changed to the extreme worse when it comes to having a home and nesting area's for our ground nesting wildlife.I have alway's supported farmer's and land owners and feel they have the right to use their land as they choose as long as it is legal and does not do damage to their neighbors but is it too much to ask that if in raising crops or livestock and they share in tax supported plans to increase the value of their property they develope a conservation plan that would support and protect wildlife.If something is not done and soon I really believe the day of quail hunting will be long gone.Does it not seem weird to any one but me that I could have an easier chance in taking my grand children on a succesful deer hunt than on a quail hunt.

More pap from MDC. We have

More pap from MDC. We have had droughts and dry spells forever, it's called "the weather". The farming practices, loss of habitat, dramatic increases in chemical use, and predominat Fescue grass (which I was paid to establish at one time) have doomed the quail. Too much power and money in agri-business to reverse the trend.
All of the resources and $MONEY$, and we cannot do anything about the causes and solutions for the demise of the Bobwhite??
One day we say "quail will live and die within a quarter-mile of where they are born." Next we say - "well, maybe they moved a couple of miles..."
Any wonder MDC's credibility is next to zero??