Bobwhite quail (Northern bobwhite) is a popular game bird. Good habitat requires an interspersion or mixture of woodlands, brush, grass, and croplands. Quail are social birds that gather in groups called "coveys.” As many as 10 to 30 birds may form a covey in which they forage and roost closely together.
An open overstory is the most important component of quail habitat. An abundance of quail can be found in areas of early successional stages such as those recently tilled, burned, or cut over. After such disturbance, quail may remain for 3 or 4 years. However, if ground litter and understory become too thick to easily find food and move around, quail may relocate to another area of early succession.
Quail are primarily seed eaters, although their diet covers a wide range of plant and animal matter. Small hard mast, weed seeds, tender leaves, fleshy fruits, bugs, insects, and snails are the primary foods consumed throughout the year.
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A combination of woodlands, brush, grass, and croplands is necessary for quail habitat. Foraging and nesting ranges require different vegetative cover.
Foraging range must have open areas of little cover. Quail forage by searching the ground for seeds, fruits, and animal matter. Areas having thick ground litter or dense vegetation will be abandoned by quail.
Nesting range must have low shrubs, tall grass, brush, or any kind of cover in which to hide. Fencerows, streambanks, and transitions between woodlands and open fields are the most common nesting places. After courtship in the spring, a pair of quail builds a nest by scratching a depression in the soil. The nest is lined with dead grass and concealed by weeds and tall grass.
Surface water is not essential. Quail get moisture from dew drops, rain, snow, succulent leaves, fleshy fruits, and insects.
In good habitat, the home range of quail is about 40 acres per covey. Over 75 percent of adult quail have a lifetime range of 1⁄2 mile or less.
Publication date: Jan. 1, 1994
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