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WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Colinus virginianus
Photo by Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS,


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Colinus virginianus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Snyder, S. A. 1991. Colinus virginianus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : COVI COMMON NAMES : northern bobwhite bobwhite quail bobwhite quail colin partridge Virginia partridge TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for northern bobwhite is Colinus virginianus Linnaeus. There are seven subspecies in North America [7,26]: Colinus virginianus subsp. floridanus (Coues) Colinus virginianus subsp. marilandicus (Linnaeus) Colinus virginianus subsp. mexicanus (Linnaeus) Colinus virginianus subsp. ridgwayi Brewster Colinus virginianus subsp. taylori Lincoln Colinus virginianus subsp. texanus (Lawrence) Colinus virginianus subsp. virginianus ORDER : Galliformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : The masked bobwhite quail, subspecies ridgwayi, is listed as Endangered throughout its range [19]. OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Colinus virginianus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The northern bobwhite's range extends from southern Maine and Ontario south to Florida and west to the eastern fringes of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Isolated populations inhabit eastern Washington, western Idaho, and northwestern Oregon [2,7]. Populations of northern bobwhite have been introduced to parts of Hawaii and southern British Columbia [12]. Ranges of individual subspecies are listed below [7]. C. v. subsp. marilandicus - from southwestern Maine through central Virginia C. v. subsp. mexicanus - eastern United States from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Midwest C. v. subsp. virginianus - from Virginia south to northern Florida and southeast Alabama C. v. subsp. floridanus - south peninsular Florida C. v. subsp. taylori - from South Dakota to northern Texas and east to western Missouri and northwestern Arkansas C. v. subsp. texanus - southwestern Texas south into Mexico C. v. subsp. ridgwayi - extreme south-central Arizona into Mexico ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K026 Oregon oakwoods K027 Mesquite bosque K031 Oak - juniper woodlands K039 Blackbrush K043 Paloverde - cactus shrub K054 Grama - tobosa prairie K058 Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna K060 Mesquite savanna K061 Mesquite - acacia savanna K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna K065 Grama - buffalograss K069 Bluestem - grama prairie K071 Shinnery K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K074 Bluestem prairie K076 Blackland prairie K077 Bluestem - sacahuista prairie K078 Southern cordgrass prairie K079 Palmetto prairie K080 Marl - everglades K081 Oak savanna K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100 K083 Cedar glades K084 Cross Timbers K085 Mesquite - buffalograss K086 Juniper - oak savanna K087 Mesquite - oak savanna K088 Fayette prairie K089 Black Belt K090 Live oak - sea oats K091 Cypress savanna K092 Everglades K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K113 Southern floodplain forest K114 Pocosin K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 15 Red pine 21 Eastern white pine 40 Post oak - blackjack oak 43 Bear oak 57 Yellow-poplar 63 Cottonwood 64 Sassafras - persimmon 65 Pin oak - sweet gum 67 Mohrs ("shin") oak 68 Mesquite 69 Sand pine 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 72 Southern scrub oak 74 Cabbage palmetto 75 Shortleaf pine 76 Shortleaf pine - oak 78 Virginia pine - oak 79 Virginia pine 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 85 Slash pine - hardwood 87 Sweet gum - yellow poplar 89 Live oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 97 Atlantic white-cedar 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 109 Hawthorn 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY PLANT COMMUNITIES : Northern bobwhite primarily inhabit hardwood forests of the eastern United States and pine (Pinus spp.) forests of the South. They also inhabit grasslands, and in the Southwest, shrubby savannahs [2,16].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Colinus virginianus
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Mating Season - April through June in the South, but can be as early as February and March; begins a few weeks later in the North. Clutch - 14 to 16 eggs, usually laid 15 to 18 days after mating; incubation period is 23 days; two females may lay eggs in one nest; may lay subsequent clutches if others fail. Fledge - 14 days, but juveniles remain with adults for about 50 days. Lifespan - up to 10 years [8,11,15,16].
Northern bobwhite nest. Photo by James Solomon, USDA Forest Service,
Northern bobwhite prefer open hardwood forests and southern pine
forests, as well as grasslands, pastures, meadows, and agricultural land
with shrubby cover.  Northern bobwhite tend to avoid areas with dense
tree and shrub cover [2,10,16].  In a Texas study, however, northern
bobwhite selected dense herbaceaous cover and selected areas with grass
cover as opposed to bare ground [20].  In the Southwest, bobwhite quail
may select mesquite canyons with pricklypear cactus (Opuntia spp.)
cover in the summer and open woodlands in the winter [2].  Nest sites
are usually found near woodland openings where ground cover is not too
thick [15].  In Arizona, masked bobwhite quail select areas with 75
percent to 100 percent ground cover near edges of mesquite and
grassland/forb communities [6].

Northern bobwhite need brushy cover for hiding and resting, but cover
should be open enough to allow the birds to move about and see
predators.  In the Southwest, a mature mesquite, paloverde (Cercidium
spp.), and wolfberry (Lycium spp.) overstory with lovegrass (Eragrositis
spp.) and gramma grass (Bouteloua spp.) in the understory provides ample
cover for masked bobwhite quail [6].  Mesquite mixed with pricklypear
cactus and sumac (Rhus spp.) also provides good cover [10].  Cover
should be 100 to 200 yards (91.4-182.8 m) apart and 3 to 10 yards
(2.7-9.1 m) in diameter [10].

Northern bobwhite nest in shallow depressions on the ground in areas
where density of grasses and forbs is moderate [2,15].  A mix of
cropland, woodland, and pasture that provides essential foods is ideal
[15].  Northern bobwhite roost in coveys (formations of birds in a
circle) in thick vegetation during winter [16].

Northern bobwhite eat primarily seeds, fruits, and insects, as well as
new plant growth in the spring [2].  They tend to eat a larger amount
and greater variety of legume (Leguminosae) seeds than seeds from any
other plant family, except in southern Florida and the West [15].  Some
food plants include oak, pine, and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
mast, mesquite, bayberry (Myrica cerifera), persimmon (Diospyros spp.),
redbay (Persea borbonia), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), partridge
pea (Cassia spp.), lespedeza (Lespedeza spp.), milkpea (Galactia spp.),
gallberry (Ilex spp.), skunk daisy (Ximenesia encelioides), plum (Prunus
spp.), grape (Vitis spp.),, hackberry (Celtis spp.), panicgrass (Panicum
spp.), and clover (Trifolium spp.).  Quail also consume cowpeas (Vigna
spp.), corn (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum spp.), and other cultivated
small grains, but these grains are usually gleaned from fields after
harvest; quail seldom damage growing crops.  Insects eaten by northern
bobwhite include mosquitoes, beetles (Coleoptera), grasshoppers
(Orthoptera), and ants (Hymenoptera) [2,3,10,13,15,16].

Predators of adult northern bobwhite include hawks and eagles
(Accipitridae), falcons (Falconidae), foxes (Vulpes, Urocyon), bobcat
(Lynx rufus), and domestic cats (Felis sylvestris) and dogs (Canis
domesticus).  Predators of chicks and eggs include weasels and skunks
(Mustelidae), raccoons (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossum (Didelphis
virginiana), snakes (Coluber spp.; Elaphe spp.), crows and ravens
(Corvus spp.), rats (Ratus norvegicus), and squirrels and chipmunks
(Sciuridae) [8,11,16].

Good northern bobwhite habitat requires good interspersion of food
species and cover that is not too dense.  Good habitat can support about
one bird per acre (2.5/ha) [11].  In a habitat improvement experiment in
Florida, pine forests were cleared and subterranean clover (Trifolium
subterraneum) planted to encourage the establishment of arthropods, an
important food for chicks [14].  Habitat management programs in Illinois
included planting food patches and a combination of prescribed burning
and sharecropping.  Food patch plantings generally failed to be of any
long-term value.  Areas that were sharecropped and burned during winter
and spring at 2-year intervals produced more quail than areas planted
with food patches or areas that were sharecropped but not burned [3].

Rosene [15] recommended managing forests on an uneven-aged rotation
basis, and thinning after 20 years to maintain an open canopy.  He also
suggested creating parklike woodlands in the South with high open
canopies and a thin, spotty pattern of shrubs in the understory.  For
woodlands in the northern fringes of northern bobwhite range, it is best
to maintain groups of conifers with low growing limbs as insulation
against severe weather.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Colinus virginianus
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : Fires during the nesting season may destroy nest eggs and young chicks [22]. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : Prescribed burning has been deemed one of the most effective means of stimulating and controlling vegetation for improvement of northern bobwhite habitat [15]. Prescribed fires in the pine forests of Alabama increased the number of legume species and improved these species' quality, which caused an increase in quail numbers [21]. Burning in these habitats after March, however, can kill lespedeza, an important food, as well as destroy nesting cover [22]. Frequent fires that do not allow regeneration of adequate nesting cover may also be detrimental to quail. Pine-oak types in Georgia were burned each year for 3 years to determine the effects of fire on northern bobwhite nesting success [23]. Sites were burned in late March and early April. The most preferred nesting sites were those areas left unburned for 1 year. Those burned in the current spring were least preferred. Lotebush, the primary cover for bobwhite quail in the Texas Rolling Plains, increased in response to prescribed burning. Shrubs, however, did not fully recover and become useful to quail until the 5th or 6th postfire year. FIRE USE : Prescribed burning can improve and increase food species, clear dense vegetation, provide more forest openings, and encourage early seral types that provide cover [3,11,18]. Fire is a frequently used management tool for northern bobwhite habitat improvement in the South [15]. Here, late winter or fall burning is recommended over spring and summer burning [11,21,22]. Burning between mid-February and the end of March can make available seeds that are buried below the duff layer. Insects begin to emerge after March in the South, and late-spring fires could kill this food source, as well as consume seeds, important to northern bobwhite [15]. Other evidence suggests that spring or summer fires may increase food plants, including some legumes and Desmodium spp. [25]. Prescribed burning should only be employed if, after determining quail population limiting factors, fire can improve those limiting factors [22]. Renwald and others [24] make recommendations for burning in mesquite types to ensure adequate bobwhite quail cover. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Colinus virginianus
REFERENCES : 1. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 2. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Scott, Virgil E.; Hamre, R. H.; [and others]. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. Agric. Handb. 688. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 625 p. [15856] 3. Ellis, Jack A.; Edwards, William R.; Thomas, Keith P. 1969. Responses of bobwhites to management in Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management. 33(4): 749-762. [16070] 4. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 5. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 6. Furlow, John J. 1987. The Carpinus caroliniana complex in North America. I. A multivariate analysis of geographical variation. Systematic Botany. 12(1): 21-40. [16197] 7. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1988. The quails, partridges, and francolins of the world. New York: Oxford University Press. 264 p. [16199] 8. Klimstra, W. D.; Roseberry, John L. 1975. Nesting ecology of the bobwhite in southern Illinois. Wildlife Monographs No. 41. Washington, DC: The Wildlife Society. 37 p. [16189] 9. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. United States [Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States]. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 1:3,168,000; colored. [3455] 10. Lehmann, Valgene W.; Ward, Herbert. 1941. Some plants valuable to quail in southwestern Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management. 5(2): 131-135. [12227] 11. Murray, Robert W.; Frye, O. E., Jr. 1957. The bobwhite quail and its management in Florida. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. 56 p. [16198] 12. Peterson, Roger Tory. 1961. A field guide to western birds. 2d ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. 309 p. [15917] 13. Reid, Vincent H.; Goodrum, Phil D. 1979. Winter feeding habits of quail in longleaf-slash pine habitat. Special Scientific Rep. Wildlife No. 220. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 39 p. [16196] 14. Ribbeck, Kenneth F.; Johnson, Mark K.; Dancak, Ken. 1987. Subterranean clover on southern pine range: potential benefits to game. Journal of Range Management. 40(2): 116-118. [16191] 15. Rosene, Water. 1969. The bobwhite quail: its life and management. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 418 p. [16192] 16. Terres, John K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1109 p. [16195] 17. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwest Region. 1983. Masked bobwhite quail: species range map. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Region 3, State and Private Forestry. 1 p. [16201] 18. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1979. Habitat management for bobwhite quail. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Region 6. 4 p. [16200] 19. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered Species Program, [Online]. Available: [86564] 20. Wilson, Marcia Hammerquist; Crawford, John A. 1987. Habitat selection by Texas bobwhites and chestnut-bellied scaled quail in south Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management. 51(3): 575-582. [16190] 21. Speak, Dan W. 1967. Effects of controlled burning on bobwhite quail populations and habitat of an experimental area in the Alabama piedmont. In: Webb, James W., ed. Proceedings, 20th southeastern association of game and fish commissioners; 1966 October 24-26; Asheville, NC. Columbia, SC: [Publisher unknown]. 19-32. [16193] 22. Rosene, Walter, Jr. 1954. The use of fire in quail management. In: Proceedings, 8th southeastern association of game and fish commissioners; 1954 November 1-2; New Orleans, LA. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]: 9-11. [16194] 23. Simpson, Ronald C. 1972. Relationship of postburn intervals to the incidence and success of bobwhite nesting in southwest Georgia. In: Proceedings, 1st national bobwhite quail symposium; [Date of conference unknown]; Stillwater, OK. [Place of publication unknown]. [Publisher unknown]. 150-158. [16208] 24. Renwald, J. David; Wright, Henry A.; Flinders, Jerran T. 1978. Effect of prescribed fire on bobwhite quail habitat in the rolling plains of Texas. Journal of Range Management. 31(1): 65-69. [16079] 25. Landers, J. Larry. 1981. The role of fire in bobwhite quail management. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 73-80. [14812] 26. Donohoe, Robert W. 1974. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana Walt. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., eds. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 86-88. [13714]

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