Game Bird Program

Northern Bobwhite Population Recovery

Habitat management is ALWAYS the first step

Local and regional populations of wild bobwhites continue to decline throughout much of their historic range. Precipitous declines have been observed in recent decades, resulting in extirpation in some areas, regions and even states. Anthropogenic influence on land use has altered the landscape that is now largely unfavorable for bobwhites.

Habitat degradation and loss has intensified habitat fragmentation, reduced habitat patch size and increased habitat isolation. The current landscape no longer supports widespread bobwhite numbers. In fact, so few pockets of wild bobwhites are left now that natural recolonization and population recovery following habitat restoration or creation of new habitat is rare.

Translocation has become a valuable tool for bolstering bobwhite population recovery efforts in numerous states over the past decade. Tall Timbers leads the way in bobwhite translocation with more than 5,000 wild bobwhites moved to new sites resulting in the recovery of nearly 75,000 acres of wild quail lands along the East Coast. In addition to implementation of translocation the Game Bird Program is the leading authority on bobwhite translocation and reintroduction science with more research and publications on the subject than any other organization.

Release of translocated birds on a research study site in New Jersey. Photo by John Parke/NJ Audubon.

Translocation release.

Translocation release. Photo By: Michael Ein

Bobwhite Translocation

Translocation should not, by any means, be viewed as a substitute to habitat management or even a common management practice. However, the technique should remain a pragmatic conservation option instituted on a site-by-site basis, and decisions governing its implementation should not be taken lightly.

Results from our research demonstrate that when implemented under stringent criteria and the right conditions it is very effective and successful – we have never had a translocation fail to produce a self-sustaining population when quality habitat exists on the recipient sites. The minimum conditions we require to qualify as a potential translocation recipient include, but not limited to, the following criteria:

Bobwhite covey release

Bobwhite covey release. Photo By: Dale Spartas

  • Your property should have good to high quality bobwhite habitat;
  • Your property is a minimum 650 acres, and preferably more than 1500 acres – habitat must be largely contiguous;
  • Your property’s bird population density is less than 1 bird per 4 acres;
  • You have a 3-year management plan which incorporates the appropriate burning regime (frequency, scale and season) to ensure long-term quality bobwhite habitat;
  • You provide the financial support for game bird research, cost associated with translocation (e.g., permitting, health screening, etc.), and membership of Tall Timbers;
  • You agree to a population monitoring plan prior to, during and following translocation; and,
  • You agree to become a future donor of wild bobwhites, if your property exceeds 1 bird per acre 5 years following translocation on your property.

If you would like to learn more about whether translocation is an option for your property please contact Dr. Theron M. Terhune.

Game Bird Program Publications on Translocation and Reintroduction Science

Published

Terhune, T. M., II, D. C. Sisson, H. L. Stribling, and J. P. Carroll. 2006a. Home range, movement, and site fidelity of translocated northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) in southwest Georgia, USA. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52:119–124.

Terhune, T. M., II, D. C. Sisson, and H. L. Stribling. 2006b. The efficacy of relocating wild northern bobwhites prior to breeding season. Journal of Wildlife Management 70:914–921.

Terhune, T. M. 2008. Effects of translocation on population genetics and demographics of a Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) population among a fragmented landscape in southwestern Georgia. Dissertation, University of Georgia. Athens, GA, USA.

Terhune, T. M., II, D. C. Sisson, W. E. Palmer, B. C. Faircloth, H. L. Stribling, and J. P. Carroll. 2010. Translocation to a fragmented landscape: survival, movement, and site fidelity of Northern Bobwhites. Ecological Applications 20:1040– 1052.

Palmer, W. E., R. D. Cass, S. D. Wellendorf, J. F. Sholar, T. M. Terhune, and J. P. Carroll. 2012. Survival and reproduction of parent-reared northern bobwhites. Proceedings of the National Quail Symposium 7:64-71

Lunsford, K. D., J. A. Martin, and T. M. Terhune, II. 2017. The effect of age on post-release survival of adoptive parent-reared bobwhite chicks. Proceedings of the National Quail Symposium 8:167-174.

Macaluso, W. C., C. K. Williams, and T. M. Terhune, II. 2017. Testing Northern Bobwhites reintroduction techniques in the northern edge of their range. Proceedings of the National Quail Symposium 8:175-183.

Martin, J. A., R. A. Applegate, T. V. Dailey, M. Downey, B. Emmerich, F. Hernández, M. McConnell, K. S. Reyna, D. Rollins, R. E. Ruzicka, and T. M. Terhune, II. 2017. Translocation as a Population Restoration Technique for Northern Bobwhites: A Review and Synthesis. National Quail Symposium Proceedings 8: 1 – 16.

In Review or In Preparation

Lunsford, K. D., T. M. Terhune, II, and J. A. Martin. Offspring survival of Northern Bobwhites post-translocation: influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Journal of Wildlife Management

Lunsford, K. D., T. M. Terhune, II, and J. A. Martin. Northern Bobwhite offspring survival related to growth and parental investment following translocation. Journal of Wildlife Management

Roberts, T. B., K. D. Lunsford, T. M. Terhune, II, and J. A. Martin. Long-distance translocation does not affect Northern Bobwhite Survival. Journal of Wildlife Management

Roberts, T. B., K. D. Lunsford, T. M. Terhune, II, and J. A. Martin. Site familiarity and trait differences in Northern Bobwhite Resource Use following translocation. Journal of Wildlife Management

Terhune, T. M., II, D. C. Sisson, W. E. Palmer, B. C. Faircloth, H. L. Stribling, and J. P. Carroll. In Review. Nest survival, productivity and fecundity for translocated and resident northern bobwhites. Journal of Applied Ecology

Terhune, T. M., II, D. C. Sisson, W. E. Palmer, H. L. Stribling, and J. P. Carroll. In Review. Resource use for translocated and resident Northern Bobwhite broods following translocation.

Terhune, T. M., II, B. C. Faircloth, D. C. Sisson, W. E. Palmer, S. H. Eo, H. L. Stribling, and J. P. Carroll. Genetic variability and population structure in a fragmented, isolated population of Northern Bobwhites considered for translocation compared to non-isolated, panmictic populations.

Translocation Papers»