Farming and bobwhite quail go together like ham and eggs. Quail need disturbed soil and annual weeds to fulfill their life functions, so they are forever linked to the farm landscape if their other habitat needs are provided. For those who want to increase their quail populations with little effort, it’s a matter of space and time.
In a study conducted by Fred Guthery, a noted quail expert and professor at Oklahoma State University, there is no strong evidence that food is limited in the field, so average quail density will not be affected by practices aimed at improving food supplies. He questions the practice of planting annual food plots and creating vegetation borders or "edge." This is good news for farmers who have a time crunch in the busy spring and early summer planting season.
According to Scott Sudkamp, private land specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation and a certified wildlife biologist, Guthery’s "space and time" philosophy says that bobwhite quail population density is dependent only on the amount of space that has all the things the quail needs in the way of food, nesting and protective habitat. If those requirements are provided, you will have quail throughout that entire period of time.
In the grain crop landscape, Sudkamp refers to the problem of "island populations," where there isn’t enough of the needed habitat in a space to sustain more than one covey of bobwhites.
"If the island population is decimated, there may not be other birds close enough to recolonize it later," Sudkamp says. "This is the case in much of Illinois and Iowa. Quail are prolific and populations can quickly grow when conditions are ideal, but increasingly, we see island populations that are too isolated to recover."
His advice is to see what might be missing in your quail habitat landscape and incorporate these two practices: First, when spraying herbicides, skip the outer rows on a field edge or on field corners to encourage annual weeds to provide brood habitat. Second, drop a few large trees in areas that have no low-growing woody cover to create a weather and predator protective habitat.
For more bobwhite quail information, contact Quail Unlimited at www.qu.org or Quail Forever at www.quailforever.org.