Vegetation Characteristics in Seasonal-disked Fields and at Bobwhite Brood Locations

Disking fallow fields is a management practice commonly used to promote early successional habitats for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) broods. However, effects on habitat value for bobwhite broods from different seasonal timing of disking is poorly understood. We compared vegetation composition and structure among fall-disked fields (N=24), spring-disked fields (N=26) and bobwhite brood locations determined by telemetry (N=22 broods). Both disking treatments produced more bare ground and visual obstruction than brood locations. In a joining cluster analysis based on vegetation structure, neither spring-disked nor fall-disked fields were grouped with broods. Ground coverage in disked fields tended to be dominated by a few species, but plant community composition differed between fall-and spring-disked fields. Spring disking promoted agronomic weed species such as Senna obtusifolia and Crotalaria spectibilis which have little food value to quail. Fall disking promoted important food plants for bobwhite, including Ambrosia artemisiifolia and Rubus spp. Fall-disked fields and broods were grouped serparately from most spring-disked fields in a joining cluster analysis based on vegetation composition. On our study site, use of annually disked fields by broods (N=22) was low (<5% of locations) relative to use of open-canopy pine (Pinus spp.) forests (88% of locations). We recommend fall-disking over spring-disking to promote important food plants for bobwhite. However, neither of the disking treatment provided habitat used by broods on our study area.

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