Demographics of Northern Bobwhite on Agricultural and Intensively-managed Bobwhite Plantation Landscapes

Wildlife Outstanding Technical Paper

The declining bobwhite populations evident throughout the Southeast are cause for concern. Whereas habitat loss and/or intensified agriculture have been implicated as two potential causal mechanisms for these declines, few studies have directly compared bobwhite demographics between agricultural and managed bobwhite plantation landscapes. Therefore, we monitored northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; hereafter, bobwhite) via radiotransmitters (N = 472) on a center-pivot irrigated agricul-tural landscape (N = 154) and an adjacent, intensively-managed bobwhite plantation (N = 318) to evaluate differences in home range, habitat use, survival, and nest survival between these two landscapes. Winter covey home ranges were larger during fall-winter 1998-99 on the agriculture site (P < 0.001). Coveys on the agricultural landscape used young planted pines (Pinus spp.) greater than expected (P < 0.05) during both years. Annual survival did not differ between sites during 1997-98 (P = 0.199) but was lower on the agriculture site (0.081, SE = 0.04) than the plantation (0.297, SE = 0.05) during 1998-99 (P < 0.001). Daily nest survival was lower on the agriculture site (0.939, SE = 0.02) than the plantation (0.979, SE = 0.01) during the 1998 nesting season (P = 0.030) but not during 1997 (P = 0.782). We surmised that large home ranges, low over-winter survival, and low nest survival observed on the agriculture site was related to poor habitat conditions and subsequent limited food resources. Thus, when agricultural landowner objectives are to benefit bobwhite, management endeavors should focus on augmenting habitat in agricultural fields, particularly during fall and winter, and, improving existing habitats (e.g., dry corners, young planted pines). Key words: agriculture, center-pivot, Colinus virginianus, Georgia, habitat use, home range, nest survival, survival, northern bobwhite, quail plantation

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