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

To Help the Bobwhite, Help the Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Since 1950, the South has lost most of its quail population, and as it seems, the red-cockaded woodpecker may play a major role in restoring the quail. Without the need to protect the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker, we might have seen the almost-total elimination of the bobwhite quail in the state. To learn more about this relationship between the bobwhite and the red-cockaded woodpecker, I talked with Stan Stewart, a wildlife biologist for the State of Alabama who’s currently working on quail restoration and technical assistance. I also interviewed Eric Spadgenske of Birmingham, Ala., a private-lands biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who has focused much of his work on the restoration of the red-cockaded woodpecker and the bobwhite quail.

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker:
A red-cockaded woodpecker only has a little red feather when it raises the comb on the top of its head. Most of us never have seen a red-cockaded woodpecker, and if we do see one, we probably won’t recognize the bird. However, because of this bird’s threatened habitat, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. FishClick to enlarge and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have worked diligently to help keep this bird from becoming extinct. “In Arkansas 50,000 acres and more in the next two decades are being designated to be restored as habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker,” Stewart explains. “There have been some very-good quail responses documented in these areas where the red-cockaded woodpecker habitat is being restored. Therefore, as biologists and groups designate more lands for restoration for the red-cockaded woodpecker, they also will create more habitat for quail.”

According to Eric Spadgenske, “Both the bobwhite and the red-cockaded woodpecker prefer open, park-like habitats and thrive in mature, open pine forests with an herbaceous understory. The red-cockaded woodpecker is more closely tied to the old-growth pine conditions with a diverse understory, while the bobwhite is not so much dependent upon the trees, but rather on the understory vegetation. Both habitat types are dependent upon frequent, low-intensity disturbance – primarily fire. The importance of fire in these systems cannot be overstated. Both the bobwhite and the red-cockaded woodpecker suffered over nearly a century of habitat loss and fragmentation that continues today in many quarters. Click to enlarge

“Traditionally, the red-cockaded woodpecker has been considered an enemy of private property rights, and therefore was intentionally managed against. Landowners were reluctant to mange for open, mature pine stands for fear that the red-cockaded woodpecker might move in and begin a complex regulatory cycle that would limit their land-management options. With the advent of Safe Harbor, a USFWS program that provides regulatory assurances to private landowners, the red-cockaded woodpecker has begun establishing a new image. In fact, Click to enlargeSafe Harbor has been most popular among landowners interested in restoring habitat for northern bobwhites. With these regulatory assurances, landowners have been much more open to the possibility of red-cockaded woodpeckers moving onto their properties. This freedom allows landowners the flexibility to manage for open, mature woodlands that will benefit both the northern bobwhite and the red-cockaded woodpecker without the fear of increased government restrictions. Ultimately, the recovery of the red-cockaded woodpecker and the northern bobwhite are so closely intertwined that the next heyday for quail hunting will also be a victory for this woodpecker’s recovery.”

Without the undertaking of drastic measures, quail numbers in the South will continue to decline. However, with the restoration of lands for the red-cockaded woodpecker and the longleaf pine, the South’s declining quail population does have a glimmer of hope. At you’ll find a printer-friendly quail-management publication online that show the requirements necessary to help bring the bobwhite quail back to your land. You can also call Quail Unlimited at (803) 637-5731, or visit for more information.

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 5