John's Journal...

Ways to Help the Bobwhite Quail Using Fire, Herbicides and Longleaf Pine Plantings and Protecting the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

How Using an Herbicide Can Help the Bobwhite

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Since 1950, the South has lost much of its quail population. At this rate, in the next 10 to 20 years, the cheerful sound of the native, wild bobwhite quail may vanish from the South’s landscape. The landscape of the South has changed drastically over the years, and these changes negatively have impacted the bobwhite quail’s habitat. To find out what’s happened to quail populations is why I’ve interviewed Stan Stewart, wildlife biologist for the State of Alabama, who’s currently working on quail restoration and technical assistance.

At a research station in Cooksville, Mississippi, the landowner has increased the number of quail on his land five- to 10-fold in the last 6 years by controlling low-quality hardwood brush such as sweetgum, which has taken over millions of acres of timberland throughout the South. Researchers have determined that this replacement of forbs, legumes, rubus species Click to enlargesuch as blackberries and dewberries, and grasses once native to the southern woodlands by the low-quality sweetgum partially has caused the decline of quail populations. The low-quality underbrush has grown so vigorously that generally even an annual or biannual burning of the land can't control it.    

"We used an herbicide with the active ingredient imazapyr to control the hardwood brush in selected sites on the Cooksville property," says Mark Thomas. "In many sections of the South, native plants have remained dormant, unable to germinate and grow, because of the unnatural takeover of exotic grasses and low-quality hardwood brush like sweetgum. By applying a herbicide, we can remove that low-quality hardwood brush, help eliminate non-native plants and again restore the natural-plant community that once has produced abundant food and habitat for wildlife”

"After we've controlled the hardwood brush, we use a dormant-season fire to stimulate the natural sClick to enlargeeed pool in the soil to allow for the re-colonization of the native plants preferred by bobwhite quail. This system of forest management also promotes the growth of desmodium, like beggarsweed, as well as allows many of the native plants bobwhite feed on to begin to germinate and grow."    

A controlled use of an herbicide in conjunction with a dormant-season fire enables the land to not only produce more seeds and weeds for adult quail but also more insects and cover for baby quail. Quail populations have declined in the past years primarily due to a lack of weeds that produce enough insects for baby quail to eat or provide protection from the weather and predators. Using a legume and rubus-tolerant selective herbicide and fire initially solves both these problems.    

In recent years, many quail-conscious landowners and hunting clubs have tried to plant non-native agronomic crops and manipulate habitat by discing, roll-drum chopping, brush-hogging or burning to increase quail Click to enlargepopulations, which actually can be blamed for the invasion of low-quality underbrush. Such methods have resulted in quail populations continuously declining since 1940. Furthermore, floods or droughts may damage these crops. But when you restore the native-plant succession to the land, the result will be naturally-occurring, drought-resistant and flood-resistant plants. Regardless of the amount of rain or heat the land receives, an abundance of food and habitat will remain available for quail and other wildlife in a native-plant community. Many conservation and preservation organizations advocate the use of selective herbicides because they allow the native plants to re-colonize and the southern woodland to return to its native-plant composition.    
Tomorrow: Ways to Help the Landowner Have More Quail

Check back each day this week for more about "Ways to Help the Bobwhite Quail Using Fire, Herbicides and Longleaf Pine Plantings and Protecting the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker"

Day 1: How Burning Forests Can Help Quail
Day 2: How Using an Herbicide Can Help the Bobwhite
Day 3: Ways to Help the Landowner Have More Quail
Day 4: Who’s Doing Something to Save the Bobwhite?
Day 5: To Help the Bobwhite, Help the Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Entry 495, Day 2