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Missouri’s Bobwhite Quail Population Continues To Decline

Missouri Department of Conservation

Bobwhite quail populations in Missouri have been on the decline for decades now. But it’s not hunting causing their numbers to dwindle, it’s the elements.

Last year’s drought brought a spike in the bird population, but the 2011 floods completely devastated the quails and their habitats.

The successful reproduction and longevity of the Bobwhite quail depend almost exclusively on habitat maintenance.

Tim Kavan is the Private Land Conservationist for Mississippi, New Madrid, and Pemiscot Counties. He says local rains contribute to much of the habitat destruction.

“Bobwhite quail are ground-nesting birds. They make their nests in clumps of grass,” Kavan said. “If we experience a cold, wet spring, rainy, high amounts of local rain, which is pretty common in Southeast Missouri, that could ruin a nest within a couple of hours.”

Kavan says creating habitats attracts and sustains the populations in the same way as natural dry lands.

“In 2004 and 2005 we had a conservation security program. We installed field borders and left some idle crop in marginal production ground. And immediately in 2006 and 2007, we saw a 300% rise in the quail population in Scott County,” Kavan said.

Kavan expects quail population decline to continue unless more areas adopt the habitat creation method.

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