Questions From a Northwest Missouri Landowner On Wet Quail
areas observed nest locations in the middle of brooding cover. In many cases the birds were selecting small clumps of undisturbed grass in the middle of large areas of brooding cover (close to an edge). I've seen nests in clumps of little bluestem, on the edge of a rank grass stands, in a clump of dead fescue in someone's front yard, in a patch of weeds next to gravel road, in a clump of grass on the edge of an idle food plot, in a disked fire line full of cheat, in a clump of dead grass with a locust sprout in the middle, and along the edge of a county road in a clump of orchard grass. In every case the nests were close to some sort of edge--brooding cover, shrubby cover and woody cover. The picture below is of a quail nest in a patch of grass in the middle of some edge feathering. The best thing a landowner can do is maximize edge by providing good nesting cover close to brooding cover and shrubby cover. This can be accomplished a number of different ways:
- Strip-Disking - provides undisturbed areas for nesting in close proximity to disturbed areas (brooding cover). Disk in the late fall for best results. The picture below is a good example of strip-disking, but make the strips 50 to 75 feet wide (the one in the picture is too narrow).
- Patch Burn Grazing - often done for grassland bird habitat management (picture below). Provides ideal nesting and brooding cover for bobwhite quail and many other grassland birds. Difficult to implement on cool-season grass pastures. In native warm-season grass plantings and native prairie this grazing technique creates excellent habitat structure for nesting and brooding. Patch burn grazing systems usually have an abundance of short woody growth (sumac and blackberry) which should provide excellent nesting cover.
- Maximizing Shrubby Cover - Twenty percent of a bobwhite's home range should be in shrubby cover. Shrubby cover provides critical loafing cover for young quail during the summer. Quail often nest close to shrubby or woody cover.
- Long, Linear Food Plots - creating long food plots is a great way to increase edge and place some brooding cover close to nesting cover. "Flip-Flopping Food Plots" is a great way to increase edge.
- Prescribed Burning - is a great way to maintain brooding cover in woodlands and grass fields. If feasible, consider dividing fields into different burn units to place nesting cover close to brooding cover.
- Eradicate Tall Fescue and Smooth Brome - rank stands of grass provide little nesting or brooding cover for quail. Controlling fescue and brome will leave room for more desirable plants and plant growth (structure). In other words, bare ground close to clump-forming grasses.
- Logistical Habitat Management - It is also important for landowners and land managers to minimize the amount of quail habitat work they do in areas that frequently flood. That's right, don't do a lot of quail habitat work in theses places. There's just some places we don't need to be doing in quail habitat work. Flood plains that frequently flood are one great example. Instead, focus your efforts elsewhere. If all you own is bottomland ground you might want to consider taking up waterfowl hunting. That doesn't mean you can't do some quail habitat work, but don't be surprised when Mother Nature wipes out all your hard work. For example, part of our farm is in river bottom that occasionally floods. We only do a little quail habitat work in the bottom. All we have done is establish a CRP filter strip and some edge feathering (this part doesn't even flood). The picture below is the filter strip and edge feathering. Most of our work occurs in the upland fields.
The duck guys are pretty happy these days. There might be a negative correlation between the happiness of duck enthusiasts and happiness of gallinaceous bird enthusiasts. I’m hoping for a light, steady rain instead of a 4- to 8-inch monsoon! In summary, having good habitat is the best defense against weather and predators. However, we'll never be able to control Mother Nature, including predators.
Great questions and keep them coming.
Many thanks to Beth Emmerich, Tom Dailey, Scott Sudkamp and Bill White for their major contributions to this article.