Doing nothing? Not a Good Decision if You Want Bobwhite Quail
By Arlo Kane, Regional Coordinator, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Landowner Assistance Program
Bobwhites have experienced an 82 percent population decline in Florida since 1966. Much of that decline is associated with millions of acres of open pine savannas being converted to high density commercial pine plantations that provide no bobwhite habitat. Combine that with a lack of frequent prescribed burning and an increase in mid-story hardwoods, and you have a recipe for bobwhite disaster. Magazine articles often rail against hawks, coyotes, fire ants, herbicides, pesticides or any other predator or practice they can point the finger at to say they are the cause. But I think the loss of our once diverse tenant farms and conversion of those farms to dense commercial pine plantations or large monoculture farms, combined with a lack of frequent fire, is probably closer to the truth. Not that predators don’t play a role, but I just don’t think they are the major factor in any decline. I worked for a time in south Texas where we had lots of fire ants, coyotes, hawks and any other predator you can think of. But I saw a rancher apply some very good habitat management techniques to open up the understory and produce three birds per acre. That’s three times as many quail as was once thought to be the maximum density you could produce. Good habitat management that focuses on prescribed burning, thinning, bush management, hedge rows, field border, and mechanical disturbance will go a long way to helping recover bobwhite quail in the southeastern U.S.
Want to help restore bobwhite quail to the Southeast? Contact your local NRCS District Conservationist or a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Landowner Assistance Program biologist for more information. You can meet north Florida landowners restoring longleaf pine habitat who are starting to see bobwhite quail as a result in the video, Private Landowners Conserving Florida Wildlife.
You can reach Arlo Kane with questions at 850-767-3616.