Quail chick

The Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging landowners to evaluate their early summer habitat for increased quail numbers.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging landowners to evaluate their early summer habitat for increased quail numbers.

Kyle Hedges, wildlife management biologist, said this is a prime nesting and brooding rearing season for quail.

He said a limiting factor for quail population numbers is a lack of sufficient brood rearing habitat including plants that are easy for tiny, young birds to walk through and find food.

Hedges said landowners in early summer can listen for quail giving the bobwhite call.

“If a landowner doesn’t hear any on their property, but quail are always whistling on the neighbor, evaluate what habitat the neighbor has that their land lacks,” Hedges said. “If there are none heard within a mile, then they need to realize this could be an uphill battle, but not impossible.”

He said radio-collared birds in Missouri were documented moving up to three miles across reasonably hospitable habitat.

“Native plant areas with both native grasses and wildflowers are very important for quail success,” Hedges said. “The plants provide nest cover, but just as important, they host native insects that both mature and newly hatched quail need for food in the summer months. The native plants also tend to have spacing between stems at the ground level, which enables young chicks to move about more easily.”

Conservation department staff can connect landowners with state, federal and private programs that help pay for establishing habitat in a field or along a field margin.

In addition, some programs offer financial help for habitat work to help pollinator species such as butterflies and bees.

“Quail and other grassland birds can benefit when a pollinator planting is combined with other wildlife habitat improvements,” Hedges said. “Places where soil quality or drainage is poor for growing crops may be more profitable and productive if placed in a habitat program.”

The more acres of good habitat for grassland birds that are in an area, the better the chances that quail will thrive. The conservation department is encouraging some adjoining landowners to form quail habitat cooperatives. This encourages the discussion of best practices, the sharing of equipment and to help each other with prescribed burns or tree removal projects.

Conservation department researchers have found quail nesting from late May through early September. Quail hens sometimes tend two or three clutches of eggs in a summer.

He said landowners can determine if mowing in a hayfield or pasture can be delayed past the early nesting season.

Hedges said cattle grazing can help habitat for quail when grasses are not overgrazed.

Margaret Slayton can be reached at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.