Effects of Field Management Practices on Northern Bobwhite Habitat

Native grasses and forbs have been promoted in conservation programs to enhance habitat for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). However, high seeding rates and a lack of management result in vegetative structure that is less than optimal. We implemented six management practices (November disk, March disk, March burn, March mowing, strip-herbicide application, and September burn) with a control on an unmanaged field of planted native warm-season grass in East Tennessee, 2003 - 2004, to evaluate effects on habitat for northern bobwhite. We recorded vegetation composition, vegetation structure, and biomass of invertebrate orders preferred by bobwhite broods, 2004 - 2005. Disking treatments increased coverage of bobwhite food plants and reduced planted native grass cover. Disking and burning treatments enhanced vertical cover and openness at ground level and decreased litter in the season after treatment. March burning increased native grass cover and decreased undesirable grass cover. Structural and compositional variables did not differ between March mowing and control throughout the study. No treatment differences were observed in invertebrate biomass. We recommend burning and disking regimes to maintain an early succession community and improve vegetation structure for northern bobwhite. Further, we recommend mowing be discontinued as a habitat management practice for northern bobwhite.

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