Primary Foods of Northern Bobwhites Inhabiting Disposal Areas of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway

Although numerous studies have been conducted on food habits of the Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), there is a paucity of information on food items taken by quail on severely-disturbed land bases. To collect more information, crop content analysis was conducted on 1,015 hunter-harvested northern bobwhites from 1982 to 1992. Quail were collected from disposal areas created by the deposition of spoil material during construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. These disposal areas are classified as severely-disturbed due to edaphic and pedogenic conditions. Vegetative cover was monitored during the study on disposal areas where bobwhites were collected. The seeded legume, sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), dominated these sites with ground coverages of ≥60% for most study years. Naturally-colonizing food plants, such as Lespedeza striata, exhibited mean coverages <5% for each study year. Importance values calculated from percentage occurrence and aggregate volume measurements of crop contents indicated that major food items taken by quail during winter were L. cuneata, L. striata, green vegetation, invertebrates, Rhus spp., Quercus spp., Cassia spp., Vicia spp., Lonicera japonica, and Pinus spp. Seed of L. cuneata and L. striata ranked in the top 5 food items over all study years, with importance values ranging from 12 to 16. Use of L. striata was similar to or higher than use of sericea during most years, despite low ground coverages.

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