other By: Dr. Dale Rollins | March, 21
• Investigated the influence of predators, pathogens, toxins, parasites, diseases, habitat loss, rodents, insects and weather on quail.
• Identified “best management practices” for creating quail habitat in the Rolling Plains ecoregion (and shared our findings with landowners and land managers).
• Leg-banded over 14,000 quail and intensively monitored quail populations as we seek to learn which factors cause increases and decreases in abundance.
• “Sounded the alarm” per importance of disease ecology in wild quails via our Operation Idiopathic Decline effort, which subsequently led to identification of two parasites (eyeworms and cecal worms) as “suspects of interest” in the decline of quail numbers.
• Advanced our knowledge of relationships between quail and various predator species, including some “myth busting” with respect to which species pose serious threats to quail and which simply get a “bad wrap” from quail hunters.
• Become a leader in the emerging science of translocating wild quail to jumpstart populations in areas where quail were previously abundant.
• Conducted the first-ever sequencing of the bobwhite genome in collaboration with Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine.
• Helped the folks who care about saving wild quail by (1) providing opportunities for young wildlife biologists to complete their fieldwork and residencies on quail research, and (2) educating our constituents of our findings via newsletters, annual reports, scientific papers, social media, podcasts and presentations.
RPQRR’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
I remember the first “greatest hits” cassette tape I ever bought— it was the Eagles’ 1971-75 collection released in 1976. Take it easy. One of these nights. Witchy woman. You likely know the words as well as I do. The album has been certified “platinum” 38 different times—their legacy lives on and long may it reign. Now that we’re completing our run of 12 years of e-Quail newsletters I thought it might be a good time to review our greatest hits. Not sure they’ll measure up to Hotel California but here are some memorable achievements to quail science and quail management.
1 The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch: Acquired in 2007 with a gift from The Conservation Fund, this 4720-acre ranch in Fisher County serves as a laboratory, classroom, and launch-point for “off-campus” studies. This is the ONLY research property anywhere dedicated solely to quail research. At the RPQRR “everything points to quail.”
2 Tales of the tape: Aldo Leopold reasoned that “census is the yardstick of success.” Our early years were spent checking our “yardsticks.” We’ve tested every conceivable means for estimating quail abundance: spring cock call counts, fall covey counts, roadside counts, helicopter counts, and “mark-recapture” (from our annual trapping effort). We have leg-banded over 14,000 quail during that time, with populations estimated at about 8,500 birds in 2016 (almost 2 quail/acre). These efforts involved collaborations with Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and have produced a total of 3 Master’s students and one Ph.D.
3 Operation Idiopathic Decline (OID): A common concern heard among west Texas quail-folk holds that “we had lots of birds come September, but then they’re gone come November.” With that as a backdrop, our Foundation spent $2 million in 2011 split among scientists at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Texas A&M-Kingsville. No stone was left unturned as we sought to identify what impacts various pathogens may be exacting on our quail. I remind you that “idiopathic” is medical jargon for “pathology of unknown origin” or in plain verbiage “the doctors don’t know.” Over the next 3 years our teams trapped and sampled over 2,000 quails (including blues) over a total of 35 sites scattered across the Rolling Plains of west Texas and western Oklahoma. After the dust settled, the crosshairs rested on 2 parasites: eyeworms and cecal worms. But other pathogens were also noted, e.g., coccidiosis and several species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This pioneering work is soon to culminate in the production of the first-ever medicated feed for wild birds, i.e., “QuailGuard.” The OID collaboration has produced over 30 scientific articles and resulted in 4 Masters and 2 Ph.D. students.
4 In the Year 2525 (now that’s a one-hit wonder from the sixties; can you name the duo?). When you hear the word “genomics” you may not think of a bobwhite, but yes, we’ve done that too. A bobwhite hen from RPQRR (named Patty Marie as a tribute to Joe Crafton’s mother) opens the door for quail research topics and genetic understanding that couldn’t have been dreamed about just ten years ago.
5 Coyotes: friend or foe of quail: Sounds like a no-brainer, eh? Not so fast Watson. We’ve had 2 MS students study the diet of coyotes during both La Nina (2011-12) and El Nino (2015-16) weather patterns. Quail were mired in a “bust” in 2011 but achieved a tremendous “boom” in 2016 (best I’ve ever seen). The percent of coyote scats that contained quail feathers averaged less than 1% regardless of quail abundance. They tended to eat more “enemies of quail” (feral pigs, raccoons, snakes . . . even a badger!) than they did quail. Measure twice and saw once if you’re contemplating concerted coyote control efforts in the name of quail management. We’ve also measured the overlap in home ranges among coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons using GPS collars to see how these species’ search patterns overlap preferred quail nesting areas.
6 Take me back to Tulsa: We began studying translocation of wild quails (bobwhites and blues) to their former haunts in 2013. In this capacity the Ranch serves as “Mission Control” from which to launch such bold new missions (any Trekkies out there?). From these studies we seek to define “best management practices” to guide future translocation efforts. We’re making strides as evidenced by our Erath County Quail Restoration Initiative this past summer (stay up to date on this effort on our Facebook page). Our translocation research has produced 2 MS students and a Ph.D. with more to come. We have 2 additional translocations slated to begin in the next 2 years.
7 Burn baby burn. The RPQRR is a pretty (I think beautiful but of course I’m biased) ranch representative of thousands of acres in west Texas. We’ve re-introduced fire in the form of prescribed burning to enhance “huntability” via quail-friendly approaches to manage prickly pear, and “habitability” (improve species composition and vigor of grasses). We’ve conducted 76 burns to date without a mishap. And as witness to our record, the Fisher County Commissioners Court passed a resolution 4 years ago declaring the RPQRR exempt from burn bans—as far as I know a declaration unparalleled anywhere else. We’ve also served as a training ground for Rx burn schools, a proving ground for Texas Tech’s Prescribed Burning classes, and even hosted 2 “Fire Appreciation Days.”
8 Habitat, habitat, habitat. We began fine-tuning our habitat for bobwhites as soon as the Ranch was acquired. I currently rate it as 80% “useable space” for bobwhites. We’ve half-cut mesquites, strip-disced, evaluated food plots, installed spreader dams, and evaluated “patch-burn-grazing” as means for optimizing habitat.
9 Brush sculpting works of art: We have 26 species of “brush” on the Ranch—only 2 of which cause me any angst (redberry juniper and some mesquites). We’ve used various combinations of Rx fire with and without herbicides to selectively manage brush as we deem appropriate. We selectively control regrowth mesquite on our 340 acres of former Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage to enhance its habitability for bobwhites. We’ve also tested for “collateral damage” to desirable shrubs when spraying for prickly pear.
10 The storms of life: We appreciate much of our brush for its role as “storm shelters” when quail are threatened by predators and drought. One of our most intriguing projects to date monitored how quail behave when faced with various threats, and especially raptors. Be thankful for catclaw thickets and large mottes of prickly pear if a Cooper’s hawk is on your tail.
11 Teach your children well: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Our research team has involved 13 graduate students and 55 student interns or technicians. Hopefully, they will “go forth and multiply” to be evangelists for good quail management and keep quail at the forefront of their respective careers.
12 Show me the way: Via collaborations with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service and Texas Wildlife Association you can learn the basics of quail management from your easy chair. We have served as the backdrop for 25+ “webisodes” (short videos on Youtube).. Our social media (Facebook page) has 9,000 followers. Our most recent adventure is the ”Dr. Dale on Quail” podcast series which has been downloaded 24,717 times and heard in 38 countries. Finally, your monthly e-Quail newsletter has graced your inbox a total of 143 times to keep you posted on quail happenings. A newsletter tradition and legacy like that just doesn’t “happen.” Find these and more at quailresearch.org.
13 On the cover of the Rolling Stone: We’ve enjoyed some great recognition including being featured in several TV hunting shows, prominent newspapers (e.g., Wall Street Journal), and garnered several state-level awards for our conservation work on RPQRR.
14 We’ve only just begun: Although our quail abundance (like everyone else’s in west Texas) has been disappointing since 2017, I believe we’re poised for a nice rebound within the next 2 years. Remember my adage that “drought cocks the hammer” and “rain pulls the trigger.” We are poised and waiting for the hammer to fall. Will you help us as we embark on the next 12 years?
Tax Savings: More Reason to Help Us Help Wild Quail
As a nonprofit organization, the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation relies on gifts from supporters like you to continue our quail-saving research. Now, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, there is even more incentive to help us help wild quail this year. For the remainder of 2020, individuals may deduct monetary donations of up to 100% of their adjusted gross
Freak Ice Storm Hits Rolling Plains
Opening Day: Trick or Treat?
Did you have an opportunity to get out for opening weekend? I’m headed to my lease in Crane County later this week to give the blues a run (or more likely vice versa!). I invite your reports (good or bad). Please remember to save a head and wing from your birds if you’d like for us to screen them for eyeworms (see more info below).
Plant spotlight: Catclaw mimosa
Delkus and Morrow join RPQRF as New Directors
P. Raymond Morrow lives in Dallas with his wife, Maggie, and their three boys Brit, Doak and John Parker. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University and earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University. Raymond is a Partner at Coronado Resources. Coronado has acquired and manages over 200,000 mineral acres, primarily in Texas and Louisiana. Raymond was introduced to hunting by his father, who along with his brother, are his primary hunting partners. Raymond has also served on the Board of Directors for Park Cities Quail for 5 years. His interest in quail conservation has only grown over the years, especially the desire to preserve the quail hunting culture for his children to enjoy. Raymond is member of Highland Park United Methodist Church. In addition to quail hunting, he enjoys hot coffee, fishing, hiking and mountain biking, especially when he is able to go with Maggie and the boys.
Quail Coalition supports RPQRF
Word of the Month
repine (verb); (1) to feel dejection or discontent; complain; (2) to long for something. Let’s remain optimistic and focus on No. 2! One can "repine over" something, or one can "pine for" something. The two words, used thus, mean close to the same thing, but not exactly. Pining refers to intense longing for what one once knew. Repine adds an element of discontent to any longing.
Erath Co. Quail Restoration Effort “Moving the Needle” on Translocation by John Palarski
Paying it forward: can you spare 2 bag limits of quail?
Ragweed seed production 2020 by Andy Byers
Supplemental feeding evaluation by Daniel King
In 2021 we will initiate a study on-site at RPQRR to quantify and compare the effects of three supplemental feeding programs: stationary “Currie” feeders, broadcast feed at a low-moderate rate, and broadcast at a moderate-high rate. We hope to measure the changes (if any) to survival and reproduction of bobwhite and scaled quail under both programs. In addition, we want to assess the cost effectiveness of each program relative to those changes. Accordingly, we are searching for a few items to complete this study; if you’d like to contribute feed, funds, or the following items it would be much appreciated:
RPQRR offers free screening for eyeworms
Dr. Dale on Quail podcast discusses translocation research
This month’s podcast features an interview with RPQRR research assistant Dr. Becky Ruzicka (congratulations; she just completed her requirements for her PhD at Colorado State University!) Becky will be discussing two topics of great interest to quail managers. First is her research on olfaction in nest-seeking predators and how to mitigate the threat. Then we’ll discuss her PhD research on translocating scaled (blue) quail and the issues surrounding translocation as a tool for quail management. Look for its release about 20 Nov. The Dr. Dale on Quail podcast series was initiated two year ago, and it’s been really well received. Co-host Gary Joiner (Communications Director for Texas Farm Bureau) serves as a great color commentator. The monthly podcast lasts 30 minutes and addresses various quail-related topics. To see the menu of topics, see www.quailresearch.org/resources Thanks to Jonathan Vail (Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation) for his technical expertise, Phil Lamb with RPQRF for logistical assistance, and Gordy & Sons of Houston for funding the effort.
BATR (Back at the Ranch)
Regular duties include telemetry and raptor surveys. We’ll be trapping quail at 244 locations across the Ranch and conducting our Fall helicopter count.
RPQRR’s Wish List – Can you help?
Our support for quail research comes almost exclusively from private donors. Perhaps you would like to help us help quail. We have need for various pieces of equipment. If you would like to donate, RPQRR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation, so your donations (cash or in-kind) are tax deductible. Alternatively, if you’d like to make a cash donation and have it earmarked for one of these items that’s great too. To find out more about how you can donate, visit our website at quailresearch.org/donate. Here’s our current list of needs:
By the numbers
417; that’s the number of chicks we estimate were produced as a result of our translocation effort in Erath Co. this past summer.
Technical publication of the month
(Note: if you’ve never used Google Scholar to search technical literature of interest (i.e., quail), you should try it. Just go to www.scholar.google.com , then search for key words of interest, e.g., “bobwhites Texas”; you can also specify a range of dates, i.e., since 2018. Often there will be a link to a free pdf copy of the article.) I wish this had been available when I was in grad school!
Predation Management and Spatial Structure Moderate Extirpation Risk and Harvest of Northern Bobwhite by J. Yeiser et al. 2020. Wildlife Society Bulletin: https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21964
Abstract: Density dependence, immigration, and emigration can considerably influence wildlife population demographics. Population models used to evaluate common actions like predator management and harvest in the absence of these processes may lead to poor management decisions. We built a novel population simulation model for the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; bobwhite) that included implicit spatial structure (ingress and egress of individuals), density dependence, and harvest. We used 42 years of data (1970–2012) from a relatively stable population to create and validate the simulation model. We then used this simulation model to predict the effect of meso‐mammal trap and removal, a management action that increases bobwhite fecundity, on population abundance, cumulative harvest through 50 years, and extirpation risk. We conducted a population sensitivity analysis to understand the implications of meso‐mammal trap and removal to populations with varying vital rates. Incorporating ingress and egress of individuals and density dependence improved the understanding of bobwhite population dynamics and reduced the uncertainty about the efficacy of predator management across a range of environmental conditions. Increased number of immigration sources decreased extirpation risk and increased bobwhite abundance. A key outcome of our modeling process was that density‐dependent processes did not fully compensate for harvest. Cumulative harvest through 50 years increased with increasing harvest rate but started to decline when harvest rate was >0.35 for populations with meso‐mammal removal and 0.25–0.30 for populations without meso‐mammal removal. Meso‐mammal removal increased the harvest capacity of populations and produced greater harvest opportunity over time. Meso‐mammal removal also buffered populations from extirpation risk resulting from too few immigration sources. Practitioners often ignore the contribution of immigration and emigration to local demographics or assume density‐independent vital rates; however, recent literature reviews and our study indicate that these processes are important to the understanding of animal ecology and management. In the interest of the conservation of species that are hunted and at risk of extirpation in some geographies, predator management may increase hunter success and be a tool to reduce extirpation risk, although the degree of effectiveness likely varies geographically. This manuscript could serve as a framework for predicting the effects of management on bobwhite at the population level.