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Working Lands for Wildlife - Bobwhite Quail

Northern Bobwhite in Working Grasslands

In the past, farmers and graziers were required to take land out of production to establish wildlife habitat for bobwhite quail and other species. NRCS now offers another option that benefits both beef AND bobs! The Northern Bobwhite in Working Grasslands Initiative encourages livestock producers to establish productive warm season forages to support grazing in the summer. By sustainably increasing summer forage production for grazing livestock, farmers can focus on their production goals while simultaneously providing large acreages of prime habitat for ground nesting birds and other wildlife.

Why It Makes Sense

Research shows that livestock and ground nesting birds can thrive together with moderate grazing pressure.The northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is often referred to as an “edge” species, seeking shelter where crop fields intersect with woodlands, pastures, and old fields. Over the last 60 years, population expansion combined with changes in land management practices have resulted in significant losses of desired quail habitat and diminished bobwhite populations by more than 80 percent.

Leading researchers like Dr. Pat Keyser from the University of Tennessee's Center for Native Grasslands Management have documented the wildlife benefits of managed grazing on these native summer forages, concluding that this approach actually enhances the habitat for the ground nesting birds.

Bobwhite quail are also a state-identified target species of the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership, a collaborative approach to conserve habitat on working lands. This WLFW project is designed to re-establish habitat on working lands to help bring back the quail that were once an integral part of Virginia’s farming way of life.

How It Works

This new concept of fully integrating wildlife into grazing lands offers a "win-win" for participating producers by enabling them to continue grazing on land with installed wildlife practices. Check out these videos to learn more about it.

Who is Eligible to Participate

If you have grazing land in Virginia, you can apply to participate in the program. However, NRCS has established the following focal areas for targeted habitat restoration activities: Augusta, Bland, Botetourt, Charlotte, Culpeper, Fauquier, Halifax, Madison, Orange, Pittsylvania, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Wythe.

Eligible producers can get technical and financial assistance to implement various conservation practices to address habitat loss in much of the bobwhite range while maintaining or improving livestock production on their lands.

Frequently Asked Questions

"What grasses can I plant in this program?" "How much financial assistance can I get to help establish these grasses?" Get answers to these and many other common queries about this new Working Lands for Wildlife initiative on our FAQ page.

How to Get Started:

  1. Contact your local NRCS office to sign up for the WLFW Program. (View map of service center locations.)
  2. Schedule a farm visit with your district conservationist, grazing specialist, and private lands biologist.
  3. Define your goals and outline your plan.
  4. Finalize plan details to schedule practice implementation.
  5. Be prepared for the early application ranking planned this fall.

Learn More