Some Speculations on the Minimum Habitat Requirements of Bobwhite Quail

This paper reports on a review of 24 selected publications dealing with the habitat requirements of the bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus). Its purpose is to bring the results of these investigations into sharper focus in an effort to determine the minimum number of vegetative types, and the minimum amount of each, that are needed to support a single covey the year round. It also seeks to stimulate further inquiry into the validity of the hypothesis presented. The literature reviewed indicates that quail ordinarily require at least three vegetative types-crop fields, brushy cover, and grassland. A further requirement of quail range is that these vegetative types be well interspersed so some of each is available to each covey. The winter food requirements of a covey of 12 birds can probably be met by three-fourths of an acre of annual food plants or one-seventh of an acre of bicolor (Lespedeza bicolor). The presence or absence of a "headquarters" area of brushy cover may be the determining factor in deciding the habitability of a covey range. A minimum of 450 square feet of this brushy cover appears to be needed. At least one-fifth of an acre of grassland, primarily for nesting cover, is needed. It is suggested that a hypothetical covey range might consist of the above amounts of vegetation concentrated in a rectangular field 99 feet wide and 484 feet long when the annual food patch is used, and a rectangular field 39 feet wide and 454 feet long when bicolor is used for food. The habitability of such a covey range may be modified by population density, mobility, soil fertility, harassment, weather, "tradition," or the continuity of the quail range. If the hypothetical covey range proves valid, ways and means of establishing it on intensively used agricultural land need to be found.

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