Better Quail Habitat

Bobwhite Covey
Better Quail Habitat

When it comes to habitat, the most essential thing a quail needs is cover for escape, nesting, and brood-rearing. Since food is rarely a limiting factor for quail, landowners should focus on providing cover habitat. 

A strong first step to enhancing quail cover is protecting what is already there — the shrubby and woody edges, draws, and “waste areas” that usually occur around a farm. Retain cover by fencing livestock out to allow natural plant growth. 

You won't increase numbers on your land by altering areas where quail already occur: You will instead need to create more area elsewhere on your property for them to further colonize. Make an assessment of the habitat quail are already using, and then look for additional areas to provide more of the same.

Essential Land Management For Quail

Disking breaks up dense, sod-forming grasses like fescue and bluegrass, making room for important quail forage including seed-producing plants and insects. 

As with any land management practice, timing of application must be considered. 

  • Disking in fall and winter produces heavy-seeded quail foods such as ragweed and partridge pea, while the peak production of important grass seed results from disking later in spring, around April. 
  • June disking produces more of the plants that attract insects plus a number of major seed plants such as beggar ticks that are important seed producers for quail. 

The disked strips in an old or fallow field must be re-disked every few years to keep the food plants from being crowded out by the less-desirable vegetation. 

In most cases, disking will be more effective if the vegetation is burned or mowed short prior to disturbance. An area managed for quail should include different treatment practices to enhance better plant variety for food and cover.

  • If tall fescue is the major component of the grass composition, disking may actually enhance fescue production. In this situation, use a herbicide to kill tall fescue before disking.

By removing ground litter and checking rank, dominant grass stands, quail will have better access to forage. Burning also improves germination of legumes, forbs, and other quail-friendly plants, while the new sprouts will furnish insects in spring and summer and seeds in the fall and winter.

For best results, burn between one-third and one-half the field in any given year to maintain some nesting cover in the remainder of the field. 

  • A late spring burn is best for setting back cool-season grasses such as fescue or brome. 
  • Late summer through early fall is the best time to burn rank, warm-season grass fields to set back the dominant grasses such as big bluestem and Indiangrass.

Contact your local Private Land Conservationist or Natural Resource Conservation Service office for information on how and when to conduct a prescribed burn.


Use selective herbicide applications to retard the growth of dominant grasses and to allow other species to grow and diversify the stand. Apply herbicides in strips or portions of fields. 

  • Apply herbicides to no more than a third of each field. 

Herbicides should be used when grasses are actively growing. For the best results, spray cool-season grasses in late spring or fall and warm-season grasses in June and July. Always read and follow herbicide label directions.


Important Plants for Quail

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