One of the most important species of quail is the Northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virgianus), which populations is currently in decline. The quail population is characterized with “boom or bust” population swings but short term variation does not represent long term trends. The long term trend indicates that the quail population has been declining since the 1950’s. (Stevens, 2013) The amount, quality and availability of food and nesting areas affect population levels. (Yarrow, 2009) The use of fire is an important and effective tool that can be utilized for the management and preservation of quail in the United States. With proper techniques and practices, fire can help preserve the habitat of the bobwhite which can help the population recover. Fire has been used as a land management tool for over hundreds of years going all the way back to the Native Americans. Unfortunately for the most of the 20th century any type of wildland fire has been quickly suppressed because of fear and lack of knowledge that fire destroys the landscape. It took the US government almost 60 years to realize the ecological importance and its importance as a land management tool.
Characteristics and Habitat
The northern bobwhite quail is moderately sized, 24 to 28 cm in length. They are a ground dwelling bird that is native to the United States and Mexico. The range of the bird is extended from the Great Lakes, Pennsylvania, Florida, through Nebraska, and extending into the westernmost of Texas. (Wooding, 2009) Their diet consists mainly of invertebrates and vegetation which is composed largely of seeds, small fruits, and green forage. Bobwhites breed from early May through September. Courting will start then and after initial mating has taken place, pairs are usually inseparable. The male and female will normally remain together until nesting and rearing of broods is complete. The pairs will nest on the ground in a small depression in the soil. They will build a nest by gathering twigs, pine needles, and other dead woody and herbaceous plant materials. The female generally lays the first egg within a few days after the nest is finished and will usually continue to lay one egg daily until full incubation is completed. On average, the female quail will lay twelve to fifteen eggs. The male and female will share incubation duties that will last up to 23 days until the broods are hatched, (Wooding, 2009) and both parents will raise the broods until they are fully grown at about sixteen weeks.
Quails generally live in areas with an abundance of native grasses, where the fire return interval is usually every few years. Good quail habitat is characterized by a mixture of brush and grassland. They thrive in habitats compromised of native grasses, forbs and shrubs but they can also be found in forest openings, open woods, and along the edges of fields that provide food and adequate cover. (Brennan 2005)
Decline in Population
There are many reasons for the decline...