Ideal Habitat for Quail & Pheasants
The following content was provided to Quail Forever by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Quail need a vast array of types of food in their diet to be thriving during the winter months and to have a high reproductive year during the growing season. This diet consists of crops such as corn, milo, millet, sorghum, sunflowers and soybeans. Receiving a wide variety of these nutrients allows for quail to meet all of their energy needs.
In places with very few types of grassland it is necessary that crop fields use a variety of applications for cropping in order to assist quail populations. Some examples include:
Strip cropping - 50 to 100 foot grass strips allow for greater nesting and brood rearing.
Plant and rotate quail-friendly crops - Crops such as cotton, rice and cucumbers provide few benefits to quail. Rotate various crops such as those listed above. The crops that provide the greatest benefits for quail are corn and milo.
Create Buffers - These protect against soil erosion as well as provide nesting, brooding and roosting habitat.
Use less herbicides - herbicides that eradicate all weeds are great for crops, but not for quail. Eliminate use of herbicides on the outer two rows of your fields that allows for quail cover and protection.
Over-seed winter wheat - Leave the field idle after harvest. This allows for a great brood habitat during the latter summer months and winter.
Grasslands were the primary source of nesting and brooding for quail, when their populations were at climax. Today, grasslands are fewer and far between, but when managed properly it can be used successfully for the improvement of quail populations.
There are a variety of ways in which you can protect and maintain your pastures and grassland for quail populations. If not maintained tall-fescue pastures can be extremely harmful for quail. These can be maintained by planting and protected various shrubs, not mowing your pastures, grazing and over-seeding to encourage seed-producing plants for quail food and disking to reduce tall fescue.
Additional type's grasslands include cool and warm season pasture grasses as well as cool and warm season grass hayfields, all of which provide excellent habitat for quail. These can be maintained in a variety of ways. Planting different varieties of grasses, three-four year burning intervals, controlling woody invaders and planting native legumes and wildflowers allow for a great range of diversity in nesting and brooding cover for quail populations.
Forest and Woodlands
Essential for a quail's winter cover, forest and woodlands are great places for quail to remain concealed and covered from predators as well. Maintain a good forest edge of briars, brambles, grasses and weeds that are ideal for quail on the edge of forests. You can also plant blackberry, plum, elderberry, sumac, grape and gray dogwood along the outside edge. Allow the forest canopy to be broken in order to establish lower growing plants. This can be done in woodland areas through forest thinning.
Many landowners have idle areas in which land cannot be used for cropland, grazing or haying. These areas can be great assets for quail. They must be maintained and still need disturbance to stay productive for quail. Tall fescue crowds quail and can be removed by using limited herbicides, burning or disking areas. Trees also should be thinned out to allow for greater quail habitat. Too many trees shades out grasses, shrubs, native legumes (clover, side oats gramma), wildflowers and annual weeds, which quail utilize for cover.
Fencerows and Drainages
Additional habitat for quail can be in fencerows and drainage ditches if it is left undisturbed and populated with fescue, brome and trees. Maintain these by trimming hedges and spraying fescue and trees. Spot spray invading trees and fescue in the fall or spring. Finally, leave your brush piles to provide immediate cover for quail. These allow for quail to walk through, but inhibit large animals from doing the same.
Savannas consist of a scattering of burr and northern red oak trees or red cedar as well as a variety of shrubs. Ground cover allows for quail to thrive in these areas where grass, legumes and wildflowers are highly abundant. Savannas appear less often than ever and restoring them is hard work. Cutting trees and allowing for periodic burning are the best ways to establish this form of quail habitat.