Cover Preference after Flushing by Pen-Reared Northern Bobwhites, Colinus virginianus, on a Hunting Preserve in Central Texas




Logsdon, James Fitzpatrick

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Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) are the most abundant and widely distributed species of quail in North America. From 1980 to 1999, the autumn population of bobwhite decreased by 65.8%. To fill the void left by the decline of wild quail, an increasing number of quail hunters, landowners, and hunt outfitters have resorted to releasing pen-reared birds for hunting. The northern bobwhite inhabits an environment with a combination of bare ground, grass cover, and brush. The challenge for wildlife biologists using pen-reared quail as a substitute for wild quail in hunting centers on finding pen-reared quail that exhibit covey and flushing behaviors of wild quail. Identifying and describing effective landscape design for landowners to establish hunting preserves with escape cover is beneficial in many ways. These preserves can be aesthetically pleasing, ecologically beneficial to multiple wildlife species, and provide maximum enjoyment for hunters and observers. Eighteen hunts were conducted between November 2001 and March 2002. Birds were hunted using guides, pointing dogs, flushing dogs, and shotguns. At the landscape level, I identified three cover types: brush, grass, and open. I observed the flushing flight of 398 birds and recorded the specific cover type to which each bird flushed (brush, grass, open) to determine whether retreat was random or associated with a specific cover type. I used a vegetation profile board to determine cover density for brush, grass and open cover types. A goodness of fit test (Chi-square) was used to determine preference by quail for escape cover. Of 578 birds released, 360 (62.3%) were harvested and 398 flushing events were observed. There was a significant difference in flushing cover preference to brush when flushing quail from brush (x2= 38( 2 cit: P < 0.001), grass (x2= 145, 2 cit: P < 0.001), and open (x2= 88.67, 2 df, P < 0.001) cover types. The proper design of hunting preserves can result in better habitat for wildlife species as well as hunting pen-raised birds. Through the use of bird preserves hunting pressure on wild populations can be reduced, resulting in higher survival and more nesting females. By improving habitat for hunting pen-reared birds, we can assist in restoring native populations of northern bobwhites.



northern bobwhite, game birds, game bird management, behavior, Bastrop County


Logsdon, J. F. (2002). Cover preference after flushing by pen-reared northern bobwhites, Colinus virginianus, on a hunting preserve in central Texas (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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