Protecting the bobwhite quail population

Northern bobwhite quail chicks stay with their parents in a family group known as a covey. In the winter months, coveys of quail come together, forming groups of up to 50 birds.

(Posted Oct. 22, 2021)

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service that helps agricultural producers protect the environment while promoting agricultural production.

One priority of the program in this region focuses specifically on inadequate habitat for wildlife. Tree and shrub establishment, upland wildlife habitat management, vegetative barriers, and windbreak shelterbelt renovations are all types of management practices that can be supported, technically and financially, through EQIP for qualifying landowners. These management practices have beneficial outcomes for northern bobwhite quail populations in Ohio.

The northern bobwhite quail thrives in areas where cropland and pasture intersect woodland areas. Farming has become “cleaner,” leaving fewer transitional buffer areas between the crops and the woods for nesting and cover. Not mowing is one way to provide habitat for quail.

The northern bobwhite quail has seen a dramatic population decline over the past several decades, with some estimates as high as 80 percent. This decline can be attributed to the increase in agricultural field size, degradation of edge habitat, and the trends toward “cleaner” farming techniques. Northern bobwhite quail thrive in early successional stages of habitat, meaning the transition areas between dense cover and open ground. This type of habitat enables the quail to find protection from predators, as well as ample insects and seeds for forage and chick rearing.

Creating and maintaining effective wildlife habitat can be done without sacrificing productive agricultural practices. Quail habitat management relies as much on what one doesn’t do, as what one does. Many beneficial plant species already exist in the seed bank, and allowing them to grow in marginal areas that are not, or should not, be actively farmed will provide important habitat to local quail populations.

For more information about how to create or enhance beneficial wildlife habitat on your property through EQIP, call the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District at (740) 852-4003.

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