The bobwhite quail is a short-tailed, chunky brown bird. Color is sexually dimorphic with males having a white throat and a white stripe above the eye, while females have a buff-colored throat and eye stripe.
Habitat and Biology
The best quail habitats are well-drained, providing sufficient moisture for forage plants. Coveys, which are tightly knit associations of quail, occur near clumps of taller vegetation and large thickets. Quail prefer habitats that provide food, concealment, and cover for escape from predators and harsh weather.
The bobwhite quail nests on the ground, in brushy fields and under fences or hedgerows, usually within a few yards of a road or other open ground. Quail are late nesters, with egg production generally completed from June to August. The entire nesting season can involve production of multiple broods, which may be an adaptation to the large number of predators and high natural mortality experienced by bobwhite. If nest failure occurs due to fire, unfavorable weather, predators, or other factors, the birds will renest until a successful hatch occurs. Nest failures spread out the hatch dates and reduce the likelihood of mass mortality of the young, but subsequent nesting attempts generally consist of fewer numbers of eggs laid. The increased survival of late hatched birds is generally associated with plentiful stock for fall hunting. Quail form coveys from fall through winter when food is most plentiful. Coveys tend to maintain allegiance to their group unless their numbers are reduced by over-hunting or high predation rates. By early spring, coveys disband as selection of nesting sites begins.
Food has been reported to be a limiting factor to the health of the population, largely due to the selectivity of quail and the availability of food types. Their diet consists mainly of seeds, small fruits, insects, and green forage. Young birds feed heavily on insects, and animal matter also makes up a high percentage of the adult diet in warmer months. Food supply is influenced by local distribution and abundance of food plants and their seeding or fruiting characteristics.
Bobwhite quail are a popular species sought by sport hunters in the ACE Basin. Quail populations have been reduced in some areas due to habitat destruction. Hunters, land managers, and wildlife management organizations are working to improve habitat conditions for quail. The quail's high reproductive rate, in combination with suitable habitat conditions, will ensure that populations can be restored.
Bull, J. L. and J. Farrand, Jr. 1995. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Eastern Region. The Audubon Society field guide series. Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York, NY.
Landers, J.L. and B.S. Mueller. 1992. Bobwhite quail management: A habitat approach. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL and Quail Unlimited, Edgefield, SC.
Mahan, W.E. 1992. Bobwhite quail. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Columbia, SC.
Sprunt, A., Jr. and E. B. Chamberlain. 1970. South Carolina bird life. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.