Will the quail survive?

I have had a number of people comment to me over the last year that they are seeing a lot more quail in the area. I have not heard the same mentioned about our pheasant population.

My wife and I actually spotted a rooster pheasant a couple of miles from the house last month on the way into town, and I almost drove in the ditch watching him. It is such a rare sighting anymore.

As I stated a couple of weeks ago, I have definitely been seeing and hearing more quail in the morning on my walks. It is very exciting to think that maybe the quail numbers might just be coming back a little. I have a theory, and I really don’t know if it has any bearing on the survival of young hatched quail or not, but it just might.

The majority of the quail I have been seeing and hearing are next to or inside the soybean fields — not just any soybean fields. The majority of soybean fields are now put into production by being planted in 15 inch or 7-1/2 inch rows.

As the soybean plants mature, they create a canopy that totally covers the ground. This is done to inhibit the growth of weeds in and around the plants. If there is no sun reaching the ground, weeds cannot grow!

Here is where it gets tricky for the quail chicks. Quail chicks require certain conditions in order to survive. They need bare ground or something close to that in order to be able to navigate easily. They also need small weed seeds to feed on, as well as an ample supply of small insects.

The soybean fields planted in the manner that they are done nowadays are the perfect habitat for these young birds. They have great cover from predators in the sky and they have easy maneuverability on the open ground. Now, they will come up a little short on the availability of weed seeds due to the fact that our weed control methods for cropland are so efficient, but I think the field edges will provide enough weed seeds to supply their needs.

I believe they will find ample supply of insects, because my crop reports each week talk about the presence of insects found in all of the fields. So it really appears to me that the new age soybean fields are the best thing to happen to quail survival in this area in a long time. It is just a theory, but hopefully it is more than that.

Habitat or not, it is really an amazing feat that any quail survive to adulthood. First of all, the eggs have to survive through the nesting and incubation process which cannot be a simple feat with all of the predators that are walking around out there in search of an easy omelet meal.

Raccoons, opossums, skunks, coyotes, and foxes wreak havoc on nests every year. That is probably why quail are persistent nesters and will and can raise up to two broods a year. Eighty percent of hatched quail fail to live over one year of age. Those are not very good odds!

If the quail make it through the nesting process the next big hurdle is dodging all of the danger from above, such as hawks. This is where the covered soybean fields come in handy.

Some interesting facts put out by Pheasant and Quail Forever state that nest survival is 40 to 60 percent and that only 50 percent of quail that successfully hatch will survive. Not exactly high numbers! So, you can see that out of a clutch of 14 to 15 eggs only seven or eight birds will survive to possibly be available to be hunted in the fall.

It doesn’t sound like a very successful story for quail survival, but that is how it has been for years. Will our numbers ever get back up to where they used to be? Hopefully, yes. Don’t ever count these handsome little birds out, though. They are survivors!

Tim Kellenberger108 Posts

Tim Kellenberger serves as Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for The Sabetha Herald since 2004. He specializes in sports reporting and column writing, as well as sports photography. Tim is a Grace University graduate with a dual degree in agricultural economics and human resource management. He lives in rural Sabetha with his wife and has four grown children and two grandchildren.


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