Nest Site Selection of Resident and Translocated Northern Bobwhites in Florida Rangelands

As throughout most of their range, northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; hereafter bobwhite or quail) populations have been declining throughout much of Florida, most likely the result of habitat loss and degradation. Restoration and management of bobwhites in Florida may be hindered by a lack of knowledge of the subspecies that occupies most of the state and its distinctive habitat. Further, little is known about the efficacy of translocating quail to restored habitat; a possible population restoration tool. Our objective was to examine nest success and site selection by resident and translocated Florida bobwhites (C. v. floridanus) at microhabitat (nest), home range, and landscape levels in the unique Florida rangelands. We used standard capture (i.e., baited wire funnel traps), radio telemetry, and vegetation sampling methods to obtain and monitor bobwhites resident and translocated into our study area and their habitat during 2007-2008. We trapped 288 bobwhites (153 M, 135 F); 176 were translocated (93 M, 83 F) and 112 resident (60 M, 52 F) birds. We located 40 nests; 25 of translocated and 15 of resident quail. Most of the selected nest microhabitat features were associated with greater visual obstruction (i.e., nest concealment) with resident birds occasionally selecting for greater cover than translocated quail. At all scales, nest sites (all birds) were located closer to fencerows, and at both the home range and landscape levels bobwhites nested further from habitat edges and canals. At the home range level, bobwhites selected for areas closer to burns and ungrazed areas but at the landscape level selected areas further from burned areas. Whereas bobwhites were selecting for several distance-based habitat features at these different scales, they had little effect on nest success. Additionally, neither bird origin (i.e., resident vs. translocated) or scale affected habitat type selection (e.g., dry prairie or natural pineland). Management through grazing reductions and the use of backing fires to stimulate growth of warm season bunchgrasses and forbs while leaving some unburned areas should provide the best quail habitat. Translocated and resident bobwhites selected for slightly different nesting habitat, but differences did not affect nest success. Therefore, translocated birds may be a viable option for restoring populations of bobwhites in Florida rangelands.

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77047