Climatic Constraints on Bobwhite Quail Populations Along Their Northern Extent

Northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) are among the most popular game birds in North America; however, the loss of suitable habitat has led to precipitous population declines throughout their range. With significant grassland and farmland habitats, Nebraska has the potential to maintain viable quail populations, but due to the climatic conditions imposed by harsh winters and periodic wet springs, quail populations in Nebraska tend to be highly variable from year to year. Local habitat management may be capable of overcoming some environmental constraints, but effective management strategies necessitate a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of large scale climatic conditions on Nebraska’s quail resources.

Although there are numerous studies focused on water constraints for quail populations in arid environments, the role of climatic conditions 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 climatic conditions, it remains unknown whether effective management implementation can lead to reliable quail populations and facilitate long-term stability in hunter engagement, satisfaction, and participation. In a first step to addressing this issue, we propose to identify the mechanism by which climatic conditions impact quail and the means by which management may overcome climatic constraints


The purpose of this project is to improve our understanding of how severe climatic events (e.g., snow storms, spring rains) alter quail physiology and behavioral decisions to impact population stability in Nebraska and to further develop management strategies aimed at offsetting these costs. Utilizing 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. Individuals were fitted with radio-collars and monitored to evaluate movement and habitat selection. Data from our initial field season are currently being analyzed, and planning for a subsequent field season is underway

Project Website
Bobwhite quail (Art: Mandy Lipinski)
Bobwhite quail (Art: Mandy Lipinski)
Principal Investigator(s)
-Joseph (TJ) Fontaine, NE CFWRU
-Gwen Bachman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Graduate Student(s)
-Amanda Lipinski, Ph.D.
-Victoria Simonsen, M.S.
Project Duration
June 2014 - December 2020
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Location
South Central Nebraska