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Establishing habitat for wild quail

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

Conservation is key

Listen to show (MP3)

Radio interview source: Craig Alderman, director of marketing, Quail Unlimited

Photo: Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri

When I was a kid, I remember my dad hunting Bobwhite quail. The past few decades have been harmful to these little game birds because of changes to farmland. Unlike deer and wild turkey, quail don't adapt well to habitat changes, so their survival is directly tied to conservation practices.

Craig Alderman is the marketing director for Quail Unlimited. He says if a private landowner provides the right habitat structures, the quail will find it.

"We concentrate on trying to remove fescue and putting in warm-season grasses," Alderman says. "Warm-season grasses are classified as prairie grasses. Big bluestem, little bluestem -- these are clump grasses. In other words, they grow in clumps and they allow significant amount of bare ground around them. Quail prefer to walk, and they need open ground and grasses to be able to get around. And they will actually nest in the clumps of these grasses."

Quail also need edge cover -- brushy areas where they can escape storms and predators. Alderman says an ice storm last winter broke off most of his tree tops, tossing them to the ground. He did some quail counts, and found they survived underneath the brush piles.

 

Ensure a good food supply

From fall through early spring, quail rely on seeds for nourishment. They provide important protein and water. Alderman says bobwhites make good use of food plots.

"Basically the kinds of things they're looking for are wheat and sorghum, which contain enough energy per grain," Alderman says. "But some better ones are sunflower, and what we call forbs -- what everybody thinks is ragweed -- produces a lot of seed. Or partridge pea."

In the spring, the young birds chow down on small bugs. A good "bugging area" quail habitat will have a lot of native wildflowers where insects hang out.

Learn more:

Quail-friendly plants: See which plants you can add to your acreage to provide nesting cover, roosting cover, winter and summer cover, shelter from predators, cover for broods, and food for quail.

 

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