Northern bobwhite response to environmental quality incentives program practices in the Texas shortgrass prairie bird conservation region
The Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) seeks to reverse northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) declines across the specie’s range. The goal for the Texas portion of the Shortgrass Prairie Bird Conservation Region (TBCR 18) is to add 18,933 new coveys to those already in existence. Rangeland has the most potential for adding useable northern bobwhite habitat to TBCR 18. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) holds promise for rangeland management practices that are beneficial to northern bobwhite. The objectives of my study were to 1) examine northern bobwhite population responses to eligible EQIP practices, which are prescribed grazing and brush management, and 2) to evaluate the relationship between quail abundance and habitat characteristics in an effort to provide specific recommendations for habitat management in TBCR 18. Northern bobwhite abundance was related to neither EQIP prescribed grazing nor brush management treatments within the context of my study. However, regression and AICc analysis revealed that northern bobwhite are greatly dependent upon woody cover, followed by herbaceous visual cover, and bare ground. Thus, although northern bobwhite abundance was not related to EQIP treatments, I conclude that the habitat characteristics found to be important suggest that certain EQIP practices would be beneficial. I recommend the EQIP practices prescribed grazing and range planting as potential tools for northern bobwhite management within TBCR 18, which will improve both woody and herbaceous cover for improved northern bobwhite abundance.