The northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is often referred to as an “edge” species, seeking habitat where crop fields intersect with woodlands, pastures and old fields. Historically, land use favored bobwhite, but changes in land use and how lands are managed have caused the bird’s numbers to dip by more than 80 percent over the last 60 years.
Bobwhites depend on early successional habitat grasslands, shrubby areas, and pine or oak savannahs found across the East. These habitats have the forbs, legumes and insects that bobwhite need for food and the heavy or brushy cover for nesting, brooding and safety. To help reverse bobwhite declines, NRCS is working with private landowners in 14 states to manage for high-quality early successional habitat.
Landowners in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia are helping the bobwhite by managing for early successional habitat on working lands. With the help of NRCS, landowners are making wildlife improvements to working lands, such as establishing field borders and buffer strips, integrating native plants into conservation cover and pasture plantings, and thinning mature forests through brush management and prescribed fire to invigorate understory vegetation.
NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help landowners manage for early successional habitat. This assistance helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation activities, or practices, that benefit the bobwhite and many other game and non-game species.
Technical assistance is free to producers. The agency’s staff of experts and conservation partners work side-by-side with producers to develop a conservation plan. Each plan focuses on bobwhite habitat management and is tailored to the landowner’s property. These plans provide a roadmap for how to use a system of conservation practices to meet natural resource and production goals.
Financial assistance helps producers pay for the adoption of conservation systems that improve early successional habitat, which benefits game and non-game species and can benefit grazing and forestry operations.
Through the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership, a collaborative approach to conserve habitat on working lands, NRCS has developed a multi-state, areawide planning initiative with the first biome-scale framework for wildlife conservation in the working lands within the 25-states of the northern bobwhite framework. The framework focuses on pine and savannas, providing tools to landowners to manage for forests with wildlife openings and diverse understory vegetation the bobwhite needs; and on grasslands where NRCS will help landowners replace non-native grasses with native grasses, forbs and legumes that benefit bobwhite and other wildlife, while creating alternative healthy grazing options for livestock. Crop producers will also be participating to install field borders, hedgerows, and other practices that habitat corridors in agricultural landscapes.
WLFW is providing technical and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a conservation program of the Farm Bill, the largest funding source for conservation on private lands.
Habitat restored for the bobwhite benefits many other species, including turkeys, deer, rabbits, gopher tortoises, monarch butterfly, Bachmann’s sparrow and prairie warbler.