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. Effective management strategies necessitate a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of large scale climatic conditions and finer-scale evaluation of population responses to weather events on Nebraska’s quail resources.

Given the current agricultural paradigm, and predicted changes in association with an increasingly more dynamic climate and landscape, it remains unknown whether effective management implementation can lead to reliable quail populations and facilitate long–term stability in hunter engagement, satisfaction, and participation. A first step in addressing this issue, we propose to identify the mechanism by which climatic conditions and landscape context impact quail population dynamics.


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 December of 2017, researchers began their last field season, following over 100 captured and radio-collared birds in south-central Nebraska. Field work concluded in early July 2018, and the project is now in the final stages of laboratory analysis of samples and statistical modeling. We are excited to examined behavioral and physiological responses during the past winter, which proved much colder and with more wintery precipitation than the previous field season.

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. (2018)

Project Duration
June 2014 - December 2020

-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Project Location
South Central Nebraska