Influence of Rainfall, Type of Range, and Brush Management on Abundance of Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) in Southern Texas

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ABSTRACT—Assessing numerical response of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) to habitat improvement in semi-arid rangeland often is confounded by responses of populations to highly variable patterns of rainfall. During 2 years of above-average rainfall, we investigated abundance of northern bobwhites relative to type of range and treatments to reduce brush on seven ranches in southern Texas. We expected response of populations to treatment of land to be more evident when northern bobwhites were released from constraints of low precipitation. However, main factors dominating abundance were rainfall during the previous growing season and type of range. Greatest numbers of calls were in mid-productivity rangeland (potential production of forage 2,000–3,900 kg/ha), especially sandy loam, clay loam, sandy, and gravelly ridge. Treatments to reduce brush increased abundance of northern bobwhites to a limited extent and were most effective when large blocks of land were treated. Techniques that kill brush (root-plowing) were more successful in increasing populations than top-removal methods (roller-chopping). Leaving strips or mottes (large clumps of living brush and trees) in cleared areas did not enhance populations, although we caution that retaining some brush cover may be important to survival of northern bobwhites in drier years and in situations where herbaceous cover  is less abundant.

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