Climatic Constraints on Bobwhite Quail Populations Along Their Northern Extent

Northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) is among the most popular game birds in North America; however, the loss of suitable habitat has led to precipitous population declines throughout its range. With significant grassland and farmland habitats, Nebraska has the potential to maintain viable quail populations, but because of harsh winters and periodic wet springs, quail populations in Nebraska tend to be highly dynamic. Local habitat management may be capable of overcoming some environmental constraints, but effective management strategies necessitate a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of larger scale climate conditions on Nebraska’s quail resources.
Although there are numerous studies focused on water constraints for quail populations in arid environments, the role of climate in driving quail populations in traditional temperate environments remains limited with much of the research conducted when the landscape was more conducive to facilitating population rebounds after severe weather events. Given the current agricultural paradigm, and predicted changes in climate, it remains unknown whether effective management implementation can lead to reliable quail populations and facilitate long-term stability in hunter engagement, satisfaction, and participation.

Goals

To identify how climate and weather (e.g., snow storms, spring rains) alter quail physiology and behavioral decisions to impact population stability in Nebraska so we can further inform management strategies. Using an individualistic approach that considers the inherent trade-offs in life history, physiological, and behavioral expression, we hope to identify key constrains in population growth and management strategies that many ameliorate population cycles.


Current Status

Beginning in the fall of 2016, we began catching quail at 19 field sites in southern Furnas County. Individual quail were fitted with radio-collars and monitored to evaluate movement and habitat selection from the onset of winter through the onset of the nesting season.

Project Website
Prairiebirds.unl.edu
Bobwhite quail with transmitter. Photo: Mandy Lipinski
Bobwhite quail with transmitter. Photo: Mandy Lipinski
Principal Investigator(s)
-Joseph J. Fontaine
-Gwen Bachman

Graduate Student(s)
-Amanda Lipinski, Ph.D.(2019)
-Victoria Simonsen, M.S. (2018)


Project Duration
June 2014 - December 2020

Funding
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Project Location
South Central Nebraska
Cooperators