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Let’s Bring Back the Bobwhite Quail

Many of our Minnesota chapter members have worked extensively on their own small and large habitat projects – planting food plots, shelter belts, edge feathering woods, created brambles and briars across fencelines. All of them hope to someday see a quail or even a covey of quail on their property. Even though quail are fairly rare sightings, hard working conservationists can quickly see the benefits to so many other species. Deer, turkeys, pheasants, grouse, rabbits and hundreds of different songbirds all benefit from the same habitat practices used to help improve quail habitat and populations.

One of our members has had the unique opportunity to manage the habitat on 200 acres, most of which had been intensively farmed since the mid 1950s. Although he had seen a few deer, some turkeys and a few pheasants on this property in recent years, much changed over this last year when he started using the practices we encourage. He had not seen a yellow swallowtail butterfly anywhere in the county over the last 10 years. In 2012, he spotted five in one day. He has seen as many as 15 pheasants, 40-50 wild turkeys and 15-20 deer in a single day. And with the habitat improvement that he has done, he has seen or heard quail on his property for 7 consecutive years.

What we teach and are willing to share does truly work. If you love wildlife and appreciate the sightings of any of these ammonals, we believe that we can easily help you make small changes that will have significant impact. And, if we can get several people involved, the bobwhite quail can indeed make a big comeback in this state. Pheasants can, too!

Many upland species have very similar requirements. Here are the basics, with a little greater focus on the quail’s needs:

  • Natural Food: Upland birds need access to bugs throughout the nesting and brooding season. Bugs are attracted to wildflowers, weeds (yes, weeds) like ragweed, velvet leaf, pigweed and milkweed, to name just a few.

  • Planted or Placed Food: Leaving a few strips of crops (like corn, sorghum, beans, millet or milo) or properly placed feeders can have a huge impact on wildlife populations during the toughest time of the year – Minnesota winters.

  • Grassland Cover: Tall grasses, such as the fescues and brome are not helpful at all to quail. They benefit from diversity in grassland heights for nesting and feeding. Native grass mixes, such as little blue and big blue stem, or the popular CP33 mix, are extremely beneficial to quail, pheasants and many other upland species.

  • Woodland Cover and Edges: Not enough can be said about the importance of edges for quail. They like the openness of grassland mixes and open strips directly adjacent to woodland cover and edges where they can escape from predators. These edges should contain trees and shrubs of varying heights, which also provide food. Dogwood, highbush cranberry, sumac, wild plum, raspberry/blackberry plants should be part of the cover providing food sources as well. Areas designed to be somewhat bramble like with vines from wild grape and bittersweet are loved by both quail and pheasants. This woodland cover is especially important in winter. Also, the edges are ideal locations for feeders.

We’re an organization that’s truly committed to action, and not just fundraising. Certainly, fundraising is part of our work. At any event, you’re sure to make new friends and meet people willing to help with ideas and information. You will probably even find folks willing to pitch in with free labor for any projects you are considering for your own property.

We all believe that action, commitment and the camaraderie from working together can produce the change needed to stem the tide of declining wildlife populations. And, if we work together, we can bring the bobwhite back to the numbers that we saw in Minnesota in the first half of the 1900s.

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