Quail

Help Support CattleToday:

A

Anonymous

When the wild plum thread (below) digressed to discussing quail, it got me thinking about a theory I’ve developed. I find it interesting that others in different parts of the country have also experienced a decline in quail populations. We’re on the rebound, based on my non-scientific observations around here, with more coveys than I’ve seen in at least 20 years.

The assumption here in central Texas has always been that fire ants were the culprit. Around here the fire ants came in about the time quail started to suffer. These days it seems like we’ve got as many fire as ever but the quail seem to be getting stronger over the past couple of years, so that explanation doesn’t seem to make sense.

Here’s my theory - y’all can tear it up and tell me what’s wrong with it. About the time the ants started coming in and the quail started getting scarce there was also a big increase in the hawk population. When I was young there weren’t that many hawks in this area. They weren’t uncommon, but they weren’t plentiful either.

I’ve wondered if the hawk population increased because the old-timers were dying off. A generation ago everybody that lived in the country kept chickens. Everybody that kept chickens shot every hawk they saw. When that generation started dying off, so did the quail because the hawks #1 natural enemy was fading away and the hawks were allowed to flourish. There was nothing to prevent the flourishing hawks from decimating the quail.

As a side note, jackrabbits also had a significant drop in population and seem to be on a slight rebound. They’re not making as strong of a comeback as the quail (which is good), but you see more than you did a few years ago. An increase in hawks could have hurt the rabbits also.

The weakness of this theory is that there are still plenty of hawks around. Anyway, I’d be interested to get other folks’ take on it, and also learn whether quail are making a comeback across the country.

Craig-TX
 
OP
A

Anonymous

Craig --- as you probably know, quail populations can "explode" in one year if the spring conditions are right --- plentiful rain brings plentiful grass cover, etc. I've read a number of studies or commentaries that cited some incredible variations in results of quail call counts from year to year and most attributed the changes to rain and "cover".

I know that in Texas the hunting fees have gotten so high that most any rancher with half a brain has started to manage his range with wildlife hunting dollars in mind. I don't think the quail and dove leases in south Texas are as outrageously priced as the deer hunting leases but they are sure headed that way.

One of my own pet theories, which I'm absolutely convinced applies in the case of turkeys, is that the huge increases in feral hogs throughout Texas has a very detrimental effect on turkeys and perhaps other ground nesting birds like quail. But I still believe in the fire ant theory too.

By the way, what county or near what city, do you have your operation?

Probably no ranch in Texas has taken the wildlife/hunting/ranching approach more seriously than the King ranch. I recently spent an enjoyable (and envy provoking) hour looking at the trophy deer shown on their website (for anybody interested it is at <A HREF="http://www.king-ranch.com" TARGET="_blank">www.king-ranch.com</A>)
 
OP
A

Anonymous

In MO the decline in quail numbers coincided with the introduction of fescue (sod forming grass) replacing the native or at least naturalized grasses. Clean fencerows also decreased travel corridors. Feed that wasn't suitable for quail started getting more popular. In northern MO and many of the other "crop" areas the land got to be too valuable to leave those little out of the way places that the wildlife could use. I also happen to think that the folks moving to the country and letting there hoards of cats run wild, and for that matter go feral, also contributed to the decline. In CA we had a small population of foxes but a horrible population of feral cats. Within two years of a feral cat vendeta the pheasant population expanded to the point that flocks of them would scatter in front of you like chickens when you walked down the lane to get mail. A cockbird on every tussock. As we traveled away from our place you saw fewer birds and more feral cats. On this farm the problem is possums and coons. Armidillos are starting to make inroads also. We've started thinning the coons and possums and have been improving the real key, habitat. Within a few years we're hoping to have a few decent coveys. We did the same thing at another farm and within 4 years we had quail coming out our ears, were as when we moved there you would only occasionally hear a quail and rarely ever see one

dun

> When the wild plum thread (below)
> digressed to discussing quail, it
> got me thinking about a theory
> I’ve developed. I find it
> interesting that others in
> different parts of the country
> have also experienced a decline in
> quail populations. We’re on the
> rebound, based on my
> non-scientific observations around
> here, with more coveys than I’ve
> seen in at least 20 years.

> The assumption here in central
> Texas has always been that fire
> ants were the culprit. Around here
> the fire ants came in about the
> time quail started to suffer.
> These days it seems like we’ve got
> as many fire as ever but the quail
> seem to be getting stronger over
> the past couple of years, so that
> explanation doesn’t seem to make
> sense.

> Here’s my theory - y’all can tear
> it up and tell me what’s wrong
> with it. About the time the ants
> started coming in and the quail
> started getting scarce there was
> also a big increase in the hawk
> population. When I was young there
> weren’t that many hawks in this
> area. They weren’t uncommon, but
> they weren’t plentiful either.

> I’ve wondered if the hawk
> population increased because the
> old-timers were dying off. A
> generation ago everybody that
> lived in the country kept
> chickens. Everybody that kept
> chickens shot every hawk they saw.
> When that generation started dying
> off, so did the quail because the
> hawks #1 natural enemy was fading
> away and the hawks were allowed to
> flourish. There was nothing to
> prevent the flourishing hawks from
> decimating the quail.

> As a side note, jackrabbits also
> had a significant drop in
> population and seem to be on a
> slight rebound. They’re not making
> as strong of a comeback as the
> quail (which is good), but you see
> more than you did a few years ago.
> An increase in hawks could have
> hurt the rabbits also.

> The weakness of this theory is
> that there are still plenty of
> hawks around. Anyway, I’d be
> interested to get other folks’
> take on it, and also learn whether
> quail are making a comeback across
> the country.

> Craig-TX
 
OP
A

Anonymous

You’re right, quail populations can go through radical year-to-year changes. There’s still no doubt that in this area they have been stronger in the past two or three years than any other time since the ‘70s. I’m almost an hour NW of Waco. I understand the same holds true over closer to Brownwood. Both you and Dun raise good points. My theory probably stinks, but it had crossed my mind. All things must be considered including natural enemies, climate, cover and disease.

Craig-TX
 
OP
A

Anonymous

> You’re right, quail populations
> can go through radical
> year-to-year changes. There’s
> still no doubt that in this area
> they have been stronger in the
> past two or three years than any
> other time since the ‘70s. I’m
> almost an hour NW of Waco. I
> understand the same holds true
> over closer to Brownwood. Both you
> and Dun raise good points. My
> theory probably stinks, but it had
> crossed my mind. All things must
> be considered including natural
> enemies, climate, cover and
> disease.

> Craig-TX

Well, I've been sort of keeping up with the quail population in North Texas for the past 40 years, so while I don't KNOW anything, I have made some observations. Weather always plays a major role in the Panhandle. Big, cold thunderstorms that hit just after the quail hatch out seem to take the highest toll of young birds - especially so if there's hail involved. Bob whites do better with drought than too much water. And disease and predation take some, too. I remember the days when we shot every hawk we could - because "they" said hawks killed quail, and now I've seen it now go the other way. All the while, I kept noticing that in the areas where people went to intensive farming, electric fences without "real" fence rows, plowed up whatever native grass was left in favor of "clean" love and bermuda grass rotational pastures, that the quail populations steadily declined. Hawks or no; coyotes, foxes, and skunks or no; fire ants or no; good or bad weather. Even allowng for the normal up and down cycles in the birds' populations, the overall quail situation became worse. But, in the areas that went into the soil bank or the newer set-aside type programs, or were bought up by people less interested in maximum agrigultural return, for whatever reasons, and the land was allowed to revert to a more "natural" state, the quail rebounded. I'm not a "tree hugger" and I believe a fellow has to make a living off his place. I just try to leave a little on the side for the critters, which I enjoy as well. And my observations tell me, right or wrong, that some animal populations - most definately quail - need habitat to thrive. And I need plums for plum butter.



[email protected]
 
OP
A

Anonymous

I am close to Brownwood and am observing a slight increase in quail populations. Up from zero the last several years. I think all of you make some great observations with good opinions. What I have noticed especially the last two years is that we have had above average rainfall during May and June which resulted in good "cover" (grass/ weeds etc.)or said another way added protection from quail predators. It turns off dry and we don't seem to have the fire ant activity until it rains again, knowing they are there. During the dry times we tried to maintain our cattle numbers and probably overgrazed leaving little cover/protection. All the points you mentioned, I think have had a negative impact on the bird populations and I'm glad to see that changing. I enjoyed each ones comments.
> When the wild plum thread (below)
> digressed to discussing quail, it
> got me thinking about a theory
> I’ve developed. I find it
> interesting that others in
> different parts of the country
> have also experienced a decline in
> quail populations. We’re on the
> rebound, based on my
> non-scientific observations around
> here, with more coveys than I’ve
> seen in at least 20 years.

> The assumption here in central
> Texas has always been that fire
> ants were the culprit. Around here
> the fire ants came in about the
> time quail started to suffer.
> These days it seems like we’ve got
> as many fire as ever but the quail
> seem to be getting stronger over
> the past couple of years, so that
> explanation doesn’t seem to make
> sense.

> Here’s my theory - y’all can tear
> it up and tell me what’s wrong
> with it. About the time the ants
> started coming in and the quail
> started getting scarce there was
> also a big increase in the hawk
> population. When I was young there
> weren’t that many hawks in this
> area. They weren’t uncommon, but
> they weren’t plentiful either.

> I’ve wondered if the hawk
> population increased because the
> old-timers were dying off. A
> generation ago everybody that
> lived in the country kept
> chickens. Everybody that kept
> chickens shot every hawk they saw.
> When that generation started dying
> off, so did the quail because the
> hawks #1 natural enemy was fading
> away and the hawks were allowed to
> flourish. There was nothing to
> prevent the flourishing hawks from
> decimating the quail.

> As a side note, jackrabbits also
> had a significant drop in
> population and seem to be on a
> slight rebound. They’re not making
> as strong of a comeback as the
> quail (which is good), but you see
> more than you did a few years ago.
> An increase in hawks could have
> hurt the rabbits also.

> The weakness of this theory is
> that there are still plenty of
> hawks around. Anyway, I’d be
> interested to get other folks’
> take on it, and also learn whether
> quail are making a comeback across
> the country.

> Craig-TX



[email protected]
 
Top