Vol 6 | No 2 | August 2013
Quail Hatch Mid-Season Report
By Dr. Bill Palmer, President/CEO
The context for the hatch in the Albany Area and the Red Hills was built last year when a good hatch provided for a rebound in the quail population across the region. The mild weather we had most of the winter provided for less than ideal hunting conditions, but it also kept the hawk migration to low numbers. Low hawk numbers, combined with good cover and native foods that persisted well into the winter, resulted in high quail survival and one of the highest carry over populations in the spring we have seen. As an example, this year’s spring population is considerably higher than it has been for several years, and is even higher than the fall population was in a couple of years (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Demonstrates how high the spring densities (quail/acre) were heading into the 2013 nesting season. Fall populations are based on our annual covey census and spring populations are derived from radio-telemetry survival estimates through the winter.
2013 hatch numbers so far can be characterized as solid, but not record setting, and very dependent on total rainfall received on an area. The positives include a high population of quail on the ground, continued high survival of adults, and decent number of cotton rats. The only negative affecting the region this year has been excessive rainfall in some areas, primarily the eastern Red Hills, which negatively affected chick survival; some plantations recorded 20-30 inches of rain in July! Our infra-red video work with broods also suggests that the chicks did better than anticipated, but brood sizes were diminished (click this link to see web video).
Nest and brood production per capita are both running above our long term average in Albany, but about average in the Red Hills. However, considering the good carryover and high spring population, per capita production this year will not have to be as high as it was in 2012, to produce good fall numbers. This is reminiscent of 2002, a record population year, in which individual production was not high, but population production was high because there were a lot of quail per acre!
Cotton rat populations are on the rebound and relatively high this summer, which correlates with higher adult survival. Adult survival this spring and summer remains high with 55-65% of the hens entering the nesting season remaining alive, and therefore available to continue contributing to the reproductive output. While we feel there was a solid early hatch, July numbers were less consistent (on some areas) as a result of rainfall. Yet, as mentioned above, a fair percentage of chicks did survive the deluges in July. The high survival of quail this summer means there are still a lot of quail available to nest in August and September. A strong late hatch would mean an above average quail population this fall in many areas.