Wood is Good, Even for Quail!

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

Quail and woodlands are seldom mentioned together. We usually think of quail habitat as open land, consisting of grass or crops and field borders. However, many landowners own some woods along with these classic quail cover types. It’s possible to manage these woodlands to benefit quail. In fact, research has shown that some of the best quail habitat is a mixture of woods, grassland, brushy areas and cropland.

From a quail’s point of view, the trouble with woodlands is that they often have dense canopies and open understories. These do not provide much cover. When properly managed, however, woodlands can provide escape cover from predators, winter cover, loafing areas, and food sources for quail. The same woodland management will also benefit you in the form of timber sales.

The distribution and arrangement of various habitat components is what makes them useful to quail. If the components are concentrated in large blocks, they won’t have as much impact as smaller grass and crop fields mixed with small or narrow woodlots.

Any woodland management practice that thins the forest can help enhance the food and cover needs for quail and increase forest health. One such practice is Timber Stand Improvement. A TSI is typically done where trees are too small to sell. It improves growing conditions for desirable trees by removing trees with poor form or poor growth characteristics.

Another option is a timber sale. A selective harvest thins the forest in a manner similar to that of a timber stand improvement. In selective harvest, you remove only those trees large enough to produce lumber or other wood products. Trees can also be harvested in clumps, creating small openings or clearcuts. These are called regeneration cuts.

Timber sales usually result in access trails and decking areas where the harvester sorts and stacks the cut trees before hauling them to the mill.

If maintained as permanent open cover, these areas make excellent weedy areas. They also can be converted to food plots for quail. Winter wheat, lespedeza, and clover can be planted as additional food sources. Roads can be planted to suitable grasses for quail.


Thinning the forest, either by selective harvest or TSI practice, produces similar results for quail. It allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor.

Many plants beneficial to quail will take advantage of the sunlight provided by the removal of selected trees. Tick trefoil, also known as beggar’s lice, usually springs up. It produces seed that quail

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