Quail chick

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says late winter is a good time for landowners to evaluate habitat for bobwhite quail. Birds struggle to survive harsh winter weather and covey survival is tested during snow and cold snaps.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says late winter is a good time for landowners to evaluate habitat for bobwhite quail.

Frank Loncarich, wildlife management biologist, said the birds struggle to survive harsh winter weather and covey survival is tested during snow and cold snaps.

During winter, bobwhite quail dodge predators and search for food.

As winter progresses into a new year, there is less quality cover and food available. The stress from the snow and cold can kill quail and eliminate coveys.

Loncarich said when evaluating winter habitat, it’s important to note that food sources and cover from weather and predators are different. He said rarely does a quality food source also provide good winter cover.

“Good quality winter cover must provide some thermal protection and overhead cover,” Loncarich said. “They must be open enough at ground level for quail to run around under, dense enough on top to provide some protection from snow and ice accumulations and small enough that quail can explore from them in all directions if predators threaten. Ideally, we want this type of winter escape cover near quality food resources.”

Food is critical for winter survival and good quail health going into the summer nesting season.

“Food resources can be native seeds in diverse herbaceous habitat or a variety of grain crops near covey hangouts,” Loncarich said. “This speaks to the importance of continuous usable space with all the food and cover components necessary for quail survival in close proximity. Whether one has native food resources, grain crops or food plots, the real bottleneck in winter is food availability.”

He said steps can also be taken in spring and summer to improve food resources on farmland.

MDC offers private land services that can help property owners with management choices that benefit bobwhite quail and all grassland birds.

For more information, contact MDC by phone at 816-271-3100.