** Archived Article - please check for current information. **
March 14, 2012
Landowners learned techniques of improving quail habitat
Quail populations have declined significantly in South Carolina and across the Southeast, but an ongoing project of the state natural resources agency may help stabilize numbers of the bird often referred to as the "Prince of Gamebirds."
Wild quail management seminars, conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Program and other partners, have been held for the past 25 years at the Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County. These seminars have provided a hands-on experience at improving habitat for bobwhite quail for more than 1350 men and women. The most recent seminar was held March 8-9, 2012, co-sponsored by the South Carolina State Council of Quail Unlimited.
"Modern agricultural and forestry practices have significantly changed the way we use the land and have had significant impacts on both the quality and quantity of habitat for bobwhite quail," said Billy Dukes, DNR Small Game Program Supervisor. "So it is essential that we provide accurate information to landowners and land managers on how to manage their lands to improve habitat for quail."
"Participants in the seminar gain a greater understanding of the factors affecting quail populations throughout our region. Our goal is to improve the knowledge of quail biology and habitat improvement for each person attending the seminar."
Biologists offer several theories for the decline of bobwhite populations throughout the Southeast, which the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate as high as 4 percent annually. Among these theories are:
- Consolidation of many small farms into larger “clean” farms and the resulting loss of "edge" habitat such as field borders between field and forest
- Increased use of agricultural pesticides/herbicides
- Forestry practices that emphasize single species plantations of fast-growing pines
- Increased use of introduced pasture grasses rather than native warm season grasses
- Increased development and urbanization of rural land
- Increased populations of other wildlife species that prey upon quail or compete directly with quail for available foods
To help offset some of these limiting factors, DNR wildlife biologists teach participants how to create optimum, year around bobwhite quail habitat by using prescribed fire, discing to stimulate native quail foods, and establishing suitable nesting and brood rearing habitat. During the seminars, speakers from DNR, the S.C. Forestry Commission, and Tall Timbers Research Station address topics such as the proper use of fire and beneficial forestry practices, federal cost-share assistance programs, and individual conservation programs.
Jerald Sholar, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, reported on current research being conducted in the southeast, including South Carolina. "Management-oriented research conducted in South Carolina by Tall Timbers reinforces the message that habitat management is the key to increasing quail numbers across the range of the species," Dukes said.
Plans are underway for the 26th annual wild quail management seminars in 2013. The registration fee covers overnight accommodations, meals and seminar materials at the Webb Wildlife Center. For more information, write SCDNR Small Game Program, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, call (803) 734- 3609 or check the DNR website for updates on the 2013 Quail Management Seminar.
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