Reproductive Effort and Success of Northern Bobwhite in Mississippi

An understanding of the mechanisms by which northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) populations respond to old-field habitat management is important to evaluate efficacy of these practices. We examined reproductive strategies and success of 114 radio-marked bobwhite on a managed wildlife area in east-central Mississippi during 1994—1996. Fifteen female and 5 male bobwhite incubated 23 nests. Male-incubated nests, female-incubated first nests, and female-incubated renests contributed 21.7%, 65.2%, and 13.0% to total nesting effort, respectively. Female-incubated first nests and male-incubated nests each accounted for 44% of successful nests. Of birds alive on 15 April (40 female and 74 male), 37.5% of females and 6.8% of males attempted ≥1 nest, whereas 12.5% of females and 5.4% of males were successful. Female nest initiation peaked in mid-May prior to the onset of male nesting. Clutch size ranged from 8 to 18, and mean clutch size was 12.3,9.5, and 10.8 for female-incubated first nests, female-incubated renests, and male-incubated nests, respectively. Mayfield nest survival was 0.40 during the incubation period, and 0.21 from the start of laying through the incubation period. Nest predation (79%) was the primary cause for nest failure and mammals were the most common predators. Despite intensive habitat management, low reproductive success and declining breeding-season survival during the study period halted population growth on this area and contributed to declining breeding populations.

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