A scaled quail nest revealed after partially parting the skirt of a sotol. Sotol and Spanish dagger are important nesting structures for scaled quail in the Trans-Pecos.

Nesting Ecology of Scaled Quail

Understanding nesting ecology is one of our highest priorities. Being able to identify factors that trigger reproduction and nesting behavior can allow land managers to increase scaled quail populations. We have been able to monitor nesting behavior through droughty years and wet years allowing us to better understand how scaled quail adapt to climatic conditions. We designed a study to monitor nest selection, nest success, recruitment, and behavior of scaled quail during the nesting season.

Plants associated with nest site selection of scaled quail in the Trans-Pecos.

Plant selection for nesting sites has been very diverse. Having scaled quail populations that select nest sites in a diversity of plant types allows for overall population stability. When scaled quail select for specific plants it may pose a potential risk if those few selected plants were to be negatively influenced by environmental changes. When scaled quail select for a greater diversity of plants, it is of greater benefit in that they will have a greater amount of potential nesting sites.

The average number of eggs per nest was 12 (ranging from 8 to 19). Nesting success differed across ranches, and ranged from 79% to 100%. The first nest site was located on April 6th, and the last recorded on July 21st.

Fall trapping efforts has corroborated high nest success in that there were high juvenile to adult age ratios. Additionally, the long nesting season we documented during a wet cycle enabled many females in the population to have a second clutch. Double clutching is less likely to occur during doughty years. In fact, on one study site, we documented almost complete reproductive failure during 2011. The following fall, 100% of the quail population was composed of adult, indicating no chicks were recruited into the population.

Scaled quail are very resilient and opportunistic species. We will continue our efforts to monitor nesting ecology of scaled quail in hopes of mediating the effects of drought on their population dynamics.