Kansas City, Mo. – Bobwhite quail survive better in winter, especially during heavy snows, if they can find shelter from predators or weather in patches of native shrubs on field corners and edges. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) offers a tree and shrub seedling program that benefits quail.
MDC’s George O. White State Forest Nursery at Licking, Mo., provides seedling-sized trees and shrubs in bundles for use in forestry, landscaping or wildlife habitat improvements. The nursery accepts orders until April 30. Information about ordering seedlings is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/3328.
Of special interest to people who enjoy bobwhite quail are bundles that can be used to boost habitat for ground-dwelling birds. Some of the beneficial species available include aromatic sumac, false indigo, roughleaf dogwood, wild plum, buckbrush, hazelnut, smooth sumac, gray dogwood and Washington hawthorn.
“The idea is to create a covey headquarters,” said MDC Private Lands Specialist Andy Carmack.
Shrub seedlings can be planted three to four feet apart and they will grow into a thicket. That gives quail dense cover to duck into to escape predators. During winter the thickets provide shelter against harsh weather. For instance, upper limbs catch snow and leave snow depth more shallow under shrubs. That gives quail a better chance for survival and finding food until a warm up melts the snow. Shrub patches make good places for quail to roost at night or rest during the day throughout winter.
Planting quail-friendly shrub seedlings in the corner of a pasture or along the edge of a field will help attract quail to a farm or keep current populations healthy. Good habitat is useful for all grassland birds and wildlife, whether planted in a small suburban acreage or on large farms, Carmack said.
“This is a good time to considering plantings that help quail,” he said. “You want to be planting these shrubs in March or April.”
Seedlings must be ordered in bundles of 10, and price varies according to volume ordered. The MDC nursery does run out of some tree and shrub species before the April 30 deadline. To make sure they have what you seek in stock, a recorded update is available at 1-800-392-3111.
For more information about assistance on private lands or conservation programs, go to mdc.mo.gov.