DESERT QUAIL RESEARCH
Annual trends of Gambel’s quail based on Christmas Bird Count data from 1960-2012.
Annual trends of scaled quail based on Christmas Bird Count data from 1960-2012.
The Trans-Pecos is blessed with an abundance and diversity of quails that is second to none. The Trans-Pecos region of the Chihuahuan Desert hosts 4 species of quail including northern bobwhite quail, scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, and Montezuma quail. Despite the diversity and abundance of quails, few studies have been conducted on these species in the Trans-Pecos. Understanding the need for information on desert quail management, the Borderlands Research Institute initiated the Desert Quail Research Program that focuses primarily on scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, and Montezuma quail.
Gambel’s Quail—Aside from a few unpublished documents, little data exists regarding Gambel’s quail in Texas. Their distribution is primarily limited to the riparian of far west Texas and their population trends have been erratic.
Montezuma Quail—Although classified as a gamebird, Montezuma are not legally harvested in Texas. Montezuma quail are associated with the oak-pine habitats found in higher elevations. They are the most cryptic and understudied quail species in North America. Studies focusing on Montezuma quail in Texas are relatively absent in the literature.
Scaled Quail—Of the quail species that inhabit the Trans-Pecos, no species is more wide-spread and more beloved than scaled quail. They are one of the most ecologically and economically important species to the Chihuahuan Desert. Unfortunately, their geographic range and population trends are declining. Habitat loss to brush encroachment and desertification are thought to be leading causes in their demise.
To better understand quail population dynamics of the 3 major species of quail inhabiting the Trans-Pecos, the Borderlands Research Institute initiated a series of studies on 3 distinct ranches in the Trans-Pecos. Studies are obtaining baseline data on quail ecology (diets, movements, nest success, recruitment, and survival) and investigating population responses to various management practices (prescribed fire, brush management, supplemental feeding, and water improvements).