Tom's Blog

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bobwhite habitat

For the past several weeks, Kathie and I have been hearing the characteristic "whistle" of the northern bobwhite. This is not a bird that we had heard before this year, but apparently it has moved in now. Hopefully, to stay.

Today, while moving through our White Oak Savanna, I heard this distinctive call very close. Somewhere in this photo, there is a bobwhite quail!

According to the Wisconsin DNR, the northern bobwhite is relatively rare in Wisconsin. It is classified as S3, which means it is rare or uncommon. Its protection category is SC/M, which means "special concern/fully protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act".

Its preferred habitat is open sites, such as prairies and oak openings. The habitat in the photo is typical oak opening, with large white oaks scattered across the area.

The DNR states that use of prescribed fire is beneficial for northern bobwhites, and that bird numbers are significantly higher in burned than in unburned areas. We had an excellent burn in this area in early April.

Fire reduces hardwood encroachment and promotes sun-loving groundcover plant species essential for food and cover. Among these species are several tick trefoils (Desmodium sp.), which are favorite food of the bobwhite (and quite common in the area shown in the photo).

Also of interest is that in May we spent quite a bit of time in the area shown in the photo spraying bramble resprouts.


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