Effects of a Milo Diet, Mineral Supplementation, and Native Seed Use in Pen-Raised Northern Bobwhites

Stocking of pen-raised northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) into natural habitat is a common management strategy for this species, as is supplemental feeding of the cultivated seed milo (Sorghum bicolor) to wild bobwhites. However, milo may be deficient in minerals and/or other nutri- ents, leading to negative effects for bobwhites eating only milo. Additionally, pen-raised bobwhites with no experience eating seeds may be reluctant to eat native seeds they may find when released. We studied the effects of a milo-only diet on pen-raised bobwhites during the non-breeding season, and we tested the effects of mineral supplementation on bobwhites fed a milo diet. We also studied use and selection of native seeds by pen-raised bobwhites, and we tested the hypothesis that exposure to a cultivated seed (milo) diet improves the willingness of pen-raised bobwhites to eat native seeds. Bobwhites maintained body mass over a 28-day period on a milo-only diet, whether or not mineral supplementation was available. Pen-raised bobwhites with no seed diet experience ate only small amounts (≤16 cm3) of native seeds over a 48-hr period, even when no other foods were available; bobwhites with experience eating a milo diet ate twice as much. Bobwhites preferred native seed common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) over native seeds partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) and Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis). Unwillingness to eat native seeds may limit survival of pen-raised bobwhites stocked into the wild.

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