Northern Bobwhite Habitat Use, Survival, and Nest Success in a Forest- and Agriculture-dominated Landscape

Changes in land use that reduce habitat availability and quality for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) are primarily responsible for a significant bobwhite population decline in the Southeast. Establishment of densely stocked pine plantations (Pinus spp.) on agricultural lands, encouraged by federal assistance programs of the 1980s, likely adversely affected northern bobwhite. To understand how bobwhite habitat my be improved on such land, we examined habitat selection by northern bobwhite (N = 61) during 1997-2000 in the Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia in a forest- and agriculture-dominated landscape. Selection of habitats (l = 0.35, P ≤ 0.001) indicated northern bobwhite preferred early-successional habitats within the study area. Northern bobwhite preferred open canopy planted pine and fallow field habitats over closed canopy planted pine and agricultural areas. Increasing proportion of fallow fields and open-canopy planted pines in a landscape context similar to our area may enhance habitat quality for northern bobwhite. Thinning pine stands is a management practice feasible for the average landowner to improve already established, closed canopy pine stands for northern bobwhite. Key words: Colinus virginianus, Georgia, habitat use, home range, survival, nest success, northern bobwhite, pine plantations, Pinus spp.

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