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What Bobwhites Want Research






The NRCS's former Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) led the Bobwhite Restoration Project, a cooperative effort among multiple agencies designed to develop and evaluate the technology needed to establish or manage the habitat needed to restore northern bobwhite quail populations to 1980 levels. The technology will assist NRCS field staff in future planning by evaluating the effects of NRCS conservation practices on northern bobwhite habitat and populations. The new technology will assist in meeting a goal of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) adding 2,770,922 coveys to current populations. Partners include Mississippi State University, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (MSU), Quail Unlimited, Inc. (QU), and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The Department of Wildlife & Fisheries at Mississippi State University is the umbrella institution that coordinated 11 research projects among nine universities. States with research projects include Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. More detailed information on the project is available by contacting the AWCC or visiting the USDA/ NRCS Bobwhite Restoration Project website at

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader.
What bobwhites want: research results from 11 projects across the quail range (PDF, 58KB)

Summer fire, rollerdrum chopping could double Florida rangeland quail numbers (PDF, 55.6KB)

A study of rangelands in south Florida by the Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Georgia and University of Florida found that quail populations could be doubled in as little as two years with improved management. Specifically, it found the use of summer fire rather than winter fire, and roller drum chopping in summer offered both improved forage for cattle and improved quail habitat.
Conclusion: Use of summer fire on a 2-year frequency along with roller drum chopping if needed increases forage production and quail habitat on Florida rangeland.

Sculpt brush, graze rangelands in Texas Rolling Plains to benefit bobwhites (PDF, 55KB)

Studies by Texas Tech and Texas A & M Universities show quail benefit from some, but not too much, woody cover. In the High Plains, where there was little brush, more quail were found in areas with more woody cover. In heavy mesquite cover in the Rolling Plains, brush management was helpful. Deferred grazing practices were helpful in both areas.
Conclusion: Some woody cover and deferred grazing are helpful to quail.

Farm Bill conservation practices improve northern bobwhite habitat (PDF, 61.7KB)

Field border size and shape make a difference for northern bobwhite (PDF, 62KB)

A North Carolina State University study of linear and block field borders on 24 farms found that quail populations almost doubled on farms where 2 - 3% of the cropland edge was allowed to go fallow. It also found that blocks of fallow habitat (1/4 acre to 6 acres in size) produced twice the number of quail as narrow (10 foot) linear field borders.
Conclusion: Quail populations may be increased in agricultural landscapes with relatively little amounts of land dedicated to early successional habitat.

Quadruple northern bobwhite numbers with buffers that connect block habitats (PDF, 59.4KB)

Research in Mississippi by Iowa State University shows a cumulative effect from applying buffers that connect larger blocks of grassland habitat. A farm with this combination produced 3 to 4 times as many quail as surrounding farms with minimal habitat. Also, buffers with diverse plants attracted twice the diversity of songbirds, and block habitats produced the most songbird diversity and nesting success.
Conclusion: Landscape systems of block habitat with connecting grassland and riparian buffers multiply benefits to grassland birds.

A University of Tennessee study compared the success of numerous treatments in promoting forbs and other early successional habitat within older, rank stands of native warm season grasses, as well as methods to control tall fescue and woody species. Timing of treatments was critical, as was intensity of disking.
Conclusion: Active management is required to maintain early successional habitat to provide wildlife needs and prevent woody species encroachment. Fire and heavy disking are most successful methods, while mowing is ineffective.