Quail translocation to Western Pineywoods shows early promise

Jan 16, 2024

The Western Pineywoods Quail Program (WPQP) launched its first translocation last year in east Texas. The property had undergone intensive habitat restoration for several years prior to the translocation, yet no bobwhite had shown up due to the lack of quail across this part of Texas. Sixty bobwhites were trapped, tagged, and translocated to east Texas from north Florida in early January 2023 and another 60 two months later in March.

The next batch of 60 translocated quail were captured and successfully released early in January 2024 with additional birds to be translocated in March 2024. (See the slow-motion video at the bottom of the page!)

WPQP Director Dr. Brad Kubečka said during the release of birds in January 2024, biologists, and more importantly the landowner, were witness to signs of early success in the project. “When we released our first group this year, it stimulated a nearby covey, (offspring from the first year’s quail release) from last year, to flush which was pretty great,” Kubečka said.

All translocated bobwhites from 2023 were tagged with VHF transmitters and tracked daily. Survival of last year’s translocated birds was good, and even better than populations at Tall Timbers and Livingston Place in the Red Hills of North Florida, where the birds were sourced.

One question we are seeking to answer is whether bobwhite translocated slightly earlier (January), will nest earlier or have more nests per hen than bobwhites translocated in March, when we typically conduct translocations.

Research technician Katrina Theisen tracks quail on the release area. Photo by Trey Johnson

If survival and reproduction are comparable between groups brought in January versus March, this could ease logistical constraints for translocation in the future. Currently, our data do not support this.

The first two nests in 2023 by March birds were found on May 6, followed by two nests from January birds on May 9. We documented a similar proportion of nests per bobwhite translocated in January and March. That said, survival of bobwhites translocated in January has been slightly better than those translocated in March which we will continue to monitor as it is too early to make conclusions.

Overall, reproduction in the 2023 batch of birds has been excellent, with 1.37 nests per hen and 49% nest success. Seventeen of the 74 nests found (23%), were incubated by males. By comparison, Kubečka said the last time a reproduction study was done in east Texas, 1990-1992, 46 nests were located during the entire 3-year project with much lower (32%) nest success. This is likely due to the intensive management taking place on the property.

Eighty percent of nests found in 2023 were in units burned one year previously, and 20% in blocks burned that year. We placed cameras at 52 of the 74 nests to help determine causes of nest failure. Multiple observations were made at nests but one notable observation many landowners might find interesting was the occurrence of wild pigs at three nests. None of those nests were depredated by the pigs.

While adult survival was good across the property last year, east Texas experienced one of its worst recorded droughts and historically high temperatures in July and August, resulting in less than ideal conditions for optimal chick survival. In spite of this, the exceptional early breeding season and adult performance allowed the population to endure, leading to promising covey counts in the fall.

To share the information being learned on this project with others in the region, WPQP consulted and developed management reports for roughly 100,000 acres of private lands in 2023, and worked with state, federal, and NGO partners to identify opportunities for quail management on public lands.












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Tall Timbers
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