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A Day in the Life of a Northern Bobwhite: Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute

Many wildlife species have complex behaviors and utilize their habitat in ways we still do not fully understand. While the mysteries of the wild intrigue most any outdoors lover, they do pose challenges when it comes to the management of sensitive or declining species.

Quail in Texas, more specifically the iconic Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), are among the species we still have much to learn. While small in size, this bird plays a big role in ecosystem dynamics and is often dubbed the “canary of the prairie,” as their presence is an indicator for ecological health. Despite public interest and general affinity for the bobwhite, populations continue to decline throughout its historic range, concerning landowners, scientists and wildlife enthusiast alike. Many research efforts, such as the Reversing the Decline of Quail in Texas Initiative, are underway to better understand and promote conservation and land management activities to help this vital species.

Tracking technology has been at the forefront of major quail research discoveries, as it allows researchers to access a quail’s day-to-day movement and fine scale habitat use. Many studies use GPS transmitter technology, a relatively recent advancement in wildlife tracking, which allow researchers to directly download daily quail movement data from a remote location. Once downloaded and processed, the data can be mapped out to describe a story of the quail’s daily whereabouts, including time spent in different locations. From here, data is paired with on-the-ground realities, such as habitat cover type and density, to help draw conclusions on how quail interact with their environment.

Our Texas Land Trends program group created this month’s featured map to display the movement of one GPS collared Northern Bobwhite over a three-day period in October. Let us review the map to see where and why this quail moved.

Read more about a day in the life of a bobwhite.