Good Bobwhite Carryover Sets the Stage for a Productive Breeding Season
We often say, “Dead hens don’t lay eggs,” because good carryover to April is essential to have high numbers of available breeders going into the nesting season. This year we observed fantastic over-winter survival of 61% and 68% in the Red Hills and Albany areas, respectively, indicating that we are carrying over more birds, on average, into the breeding season than typical. Warm winter weather contributed to less than ideal hunting conditions, but proved advantageous to bobwhite survival. The presence of avian predators associated with annual hawk migrations in fall and winter was abbreviated compared to previous years, resulting in lower than normal mortality during those times. As such, we are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming breeding season, given that survival and carryover were good, but we are a little concerned about the weather forecast going into breeding season. In both the Albany and Red Hills regions, we are already terribly dry and the NOAA forecast is pointing to a drier than normal spring and summer, which can have negative impacts on nesting activity.
Supplemental feeding can help to offset stress germane to reproduction and weather. Similarly, keeping meso-predators in check through trapping can help to increase nest survival. These management actions will be beneficial if reproductive activity is dampened due to poor (dry) weather conditions during the upcoming months.