Drs. Nova Silvy (Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences; WFSC) and Brian Pierce (Natural Resources Institute) at Texas A&M University received a grant from Reversing the Quail Decline in Texas Initiative and the Upland Game Bird Stamp, a collaborative effort between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service to study the success and impacts of translocation on northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus).
The northern bobwhite has undergone extreme population declines throughout the state and has become expatriated or rare in many portions of its historic range. The causes of this decline are many-fold, but biologists point to habitat loss and catastrophic weather events as major factors. In many portions of their range land use patterns have changed, and large tracts of suitable habitat have become fragmented. Quail isolated in these remaining patches are more vulnerable to local extinction compared to those found in large, contiguous patches of habitat. Adverse weather events, such as flooding, droughts, and temperature extremes also have been shown to negatively impact quail by directly killing the birds (or destroying nests) or indirectly by impacting vegetation, delaying nesting, or slowing quail growth.
Using walk-in traps, quail were trapped at two sites, one near Aguilares, Texas and one near Carrizo Springs, Texas. Quail were sexed, aged, weighed, fitted with radio transmitters, and banded. In addition, a blood sample was taken from each quail. Forty-six quail were moved to Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area near Tennessee Colony, Texas while 17 were released in the same location they were trapped. As part of this study, bobwhites are trapped in areas of the state with sustainable populations of quail and moved to areas where quail have historically been found (and habitat characteristics suggest quail should thrive), but are currently not present. Quail are fitted with radio transmitters allowing researchers to track their movements, find nests, and calculate movements, ranges, habitat use, survival, and nesting success. Although most trapped quail are moved to a new site, a portion are radio-tagged and re-released on the originally property in order to compare differences between the source population and the translocated population.
This study will determine the feasibility of translocating quail from their strongholds in south and west Texas to areas in east and north Texas where they have historically occurred, but have undergone steep population declines over the last 100 years. This study also hopes to identify factors that are more likely to result in a successful quail translocation to aid future projects. This study is also providing training to a post-doctoral researcher, a graduate student, and two undergraduate students in the WFSC Texas A&M University.
We wish to thank TPWD for permits and providing some of the translocated quail. We specifically wish to thank the staff at GEWMA for their assistance with monitoring translocated quail. We also wish to thank the landowners who allowed us land access to trap quail and track the quail re-released at the trapping site.
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