Quail Quandary


RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — It is early in the year, but it looks like a promising year for South Texas Bobwhite quail. The cherished call of the wild Bobwhite quail has become increasingly difficult to hear throughout its range over past years.

Statewide in recent decades Bobwhite quail numbers have fallen more than 75 percent primarily due to habitat loss, and while populations often vary greatly from year to year the decline has been steady.

Quail populations in all 35 states where the birds are native have experienced stunning declines, with some numbers dropping as much as 90 percent.

However, this summer South Texas bobwhite quail are showing signs of rebounding, and this covey of recently hatched chicks are busily scurrying around beneath a prickly pear cactus.

Even though they are only a couple of days old, these fluffy youngsters are able to scamper about quite effectively. They emerge from the egg ready to peck, and this pair eagerly samples a flower, which doesn’t take them long to strip.

Weather, particularly timely rains, and quality habitat are the driving forces regulating quail numbers.  Fortunately, this spring rainfall on most South Texas wildands has been sufficient to promote a healthy hatch.

Quail are resilient and can reproduce rapidly when weather conditions are favorable.  However, when there is no ground moisture to trigger nesting many birds will not waste precious energy on attempts to raise young.

These young quail are only a few days old and are sticking very close to their mother for protection.  However, with so many there is just not enough room for them all to squirm beneath her plumage.

And when mom decides it’s time to leave, the entire covey dutifully follows her back to the protective cover of the brush until it’s time to come to water once again.

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