The Gamebirds Program’s mission is to advance our knowledge on the ecology of gamebirds in the Chihuahuan Desert. We conduct targeted studies on scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, Montezuma quail, turkey, and waterfowl. The overall focus of our studies is to yield valuable information that can be passed along to landowners or managers to aid in making sound management decisions for these species.

Desert Quail

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 four 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, we initiated the Desert Quail Research area focusing primarily on scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, and Montezuma quail.

Because these three species prefer diverse habitat areas, our research study areas vary. We have partnered with many ranches across the Trans-Pecos. Some species are economically important to the area, like scaled quail. Therefore, the research we conduct on these species help inform landowners about proper habitat, feed, and distribution.


Rio Grande wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) were once a prolific subspecies of upland game bird occupying several southwestern states, including Texas. In southern Brewster County, populations were lost due to a combination of overharvest and degradation of the riparian habitats they rely on. Restocking efforts have been made; however, survival results have varied. BRI researchers make an effort to understand and assist turkey populations across southern Brewster County.

Waterfowl & Wetlands

Many of the wetlands found in the Trans-Pecos are formed by Ciénegas. These Ciénegas are small isolated wetlands that are typically spring-fed. Another source of wetlands are mountain springs. These two water sources are unique in the Trans-Pecos and provide water for plants and animals that would otherwise not be able to survive in desert environments. These water features are also very important for migratory waterfowl. Many species use these as stopover points as they move through the Trans-Pecos.