Citizen science can help collect data on Bobwhite Quail

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2023

BARLOW — Bobwhite quail have made a comeback but more help is needed in growing the population. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks data shows the call count numbers at Copiah WMA improved to 1.1 calls in 2022 leading the South region. 

Quail populations still have a lot of work left to be done in the state. Bobwhite quail population numbers are impacted less by hunting pressure and more by the change in habitat management. Land use has changed in the state with timber taking a priority over agriculture.

Locally, Copiah Wildlife Management Area has seen relative growth in the past four years. According to a quail call count, there was an average of .58 calls in 2017, .95 in 2018, 1.4 in 2019, 1.05 in 2020 and .8 in 2021 before the 1.1 calls heard in 2022. 

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Small Game biologist Rick Hamrick told The Daily Leader last year that hunters and bird enthusiasts can get involved to help quail efforts by doing a call survey on their property to figure out how many are on the land. Merlin Bird ID is a great phone application to help people distinguish bird calls and learn to identify them. Listening is how people survey for quail. 

MDWFP announced there is a new phone application which people can download to help collect data on quail populations today. The app called Bobscapes was created by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service. 

Hamrick said location data will not be visible to the public but it will help scientists figure out where the distribution and density of quail populations are. He added the app could help scientists find new or overlooked areas as they are not physically able to cover the entire state. Sighting data will be available for individual states which could lead to competition to see which states have the highest effort in quail surveys. 

“Having a lot of ears can help out with collecting call data and it gives us better coverage,” Hamrick said. “It could help us with programs and habitat work in the future. We have already done the quail call counts at WMAs this year and this is more of a supplement to that data.” 

Hamrick told The Daily Leader in early August land managers should not disturb the habitat because quail are still nesting. Rabbits are also breeding this time of year. 

Rabbits, turkeys and quail require early successional habitat to meet certain habitat needs. MDWFP and MSU has several publications available on old field management and pine thinning management for quail.

“We recommend people to check how many quail they have before managing them,” Hamrick said last year. “You use fixed listening points and can hear them from about 300 to 400 yards away. The more open areas are you can hear them further away. You can do this every year a few times, record it and see how they do. Go out and listen.”