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Tip Sheet for Creating Quail Habitat

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Quail need special habitat. In fact, biologists have found that "bobwhites" need both a certain configuration of plant material and a certain amount of area to survive and thrive. For best results, a managed area of approximately 40 acres with plants that offer the right food, cover and nesting area can bring the quail's call back to your land.

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Tip Sheet for Creating Quail Habitat

If you don't have 40 acres of your own, check out surrounding land parcels. Chances are, your neighbors may have complementary habitat that you can supplement or you and your neighbors can join forces to increase quail on all properties. Your local USDA Service Center or Missouri Department of Conservation Private Land Conservationist can help you determine how to add this needed habitat balance and also inform you of available cost-sharing programs.

For optimum results, at least 1/10 acre, or approximately 4500 square feet, should be converted to quail habitat for each 40 acres. This planting conversion is often referred to as a "Quail Covey Headquarters." Covey headquarters are basically clumps or islands of dense, shrubby cover with a canopy height of at least three feet (to provide cover) and little ground vegetation (to allow free movement). These specially configured vegetative plantings provide escape and protective cover and areas for loafing (to provide protection from predators and places to rest), adjoining nesting areas (with clump forming grasses and bare ground) and brood rearing habitat (with broadleaf vegetation to attract insects for foot). The covey headquarters should be adjacent to other habitats, such as a wooded edge.

A covey headquarters can be man-made or created by improving or managing the naturally existing woody vegetation on your site. The idea is to allow a progression of short, herbaceous plants to a regrowth of short to tall woody plants with the right proportion of both size and density of the vegetation. The headquarters planting can be shaped as an island or as an enhancement to existing wooded edge.

Edge feathering and fence-line renovation are additional techniques to increase quail populations. If quail are already in the area and other habitat requirements exist, creating brush piles can increase the number of breeding birds dramatically. Landowners are cautioned not to stack downed trees, but rather to drop or"wind-row" them as they're cut. It is also critical to eliminate existing turf-type sod before dropping trees or quail use will be limited.

Native plant material list includes:

Short: grows 3 - 6' tall or knee-high to head-high
Aromatic Sumac
Blackberry, Raspberry and other berry vines
Elderberry
Indigo Bush
Prairie Rose

Medium: grows 6 - 12' tall
Ninebark
Indian Cherry
Viburnums

Tall: 12-18' tall
Gray or Rough-leaved Dogwood
Hawthorn
Wild Plum

Adjacent herbaceous plantings should include:
Grasses, such as:
Big Bluestem
Canada or Virginia Wild Ryes
Eastern Gama Grass
Indian Grass
Little Bluestem
Sideoats Grama

Wildflowers, such as:
Ashy Sunflower
Compass Plant
Foxglove Beardtongue
Gray-headed Coneflower
Illinois Bundleflower
Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Lead Plant
Maximilian Sunflower
Pale Purple Coneflower
Partridge Pea
Pasture Rose
Prairie Blazing Star
Purple Coneflower
Rattlesnake Master
Round-headed Bush Clover
Sensitive Brier
Showy Tickclover
Slender Bush Clover
Wild White Indigo
White Prairie Clover