Landowners advised on quail

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A bobwhite quail management field day in June at Di-Lane Plantation in Burke County attracted 45 landowners who collectively control more than 25,000 acres.

Reggie Thackston, private lands coordinator for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, discussed habitat management for quail and other species.   Special
Special
Reggie Thackston, private lands coordinator for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, discussed habitat management for quail and other species.

Georgia has long been known as a premiere quail hunting destination and the bobwhite has been the state game bird since 1970, but the species has declined in numbers as farming trends have changed.

During the June 21 program, landowners were offered advice and information about the state's Bobwhite Quail Initiative, launched in 1999 as a means to help restore habitat for quail, and also for songbirds, rabbits and other species that live in similar areas.

Quail, like other wildlife species, have specific habitat needs, said bobwhite quail biologist Buck Marchinton.

The birds require a range of vegetation that includes three key components: nesting cover (such as broomsedge clumps), brood range (where chicks can forage for insects and seeds) and escape cover (brambles and plum thickets). Providing these three components is critical to restoring and sustaining quail populations across the landscape.

"For the last decade BQI has shown that establishing native grasses, forbs and shrubs along field borders, hedgerows and field corners along with thinning and prescribed burning of adjacent pine stands can significantly increase bobwhite populations," he said.

"Additionally, these practices benefit many songbirds, rabbits, and wild turkeys without significantly impacting farming operations. In a drought year like we're experiencing, having the right ground cover could mean the difference between having quail on the farm and losing them completely."

Many species of wildlife, such as quail, also are victims of habitat fragmentation, which has occurred across Georgia as large contiguous blocks of land are split into smaller and smaller pieces with varying uses.

One primary goal of BQI is to work with enough landowners and even facilitate formation of "landowner cooperatives" so that large blocks of habitat will be managed to provide suitable, year-round habitat for quail.


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