Increasing Nest Predators Deadly for Quail and Other Songbirds

Bobwhite nestIt should be no secret that loss of habitat is the primary reason behind the decline of the nation’s quail population. However, in the complicated web that is nature, other reason’s play a part in the survival of a quail. A much debated and sometimes controversial topic is nest predation. For years wildlife professionals and quail enthusiasts alike have agreed that predation of quail is a natural phenomena that does not drastically affect quail numbers. But, the tables may be turning.

R.J. Robel, a retired Kansas State professor and acclaimed upland bird biologist, along with Ron Klataske, Audubon of Kansas executive director; believe that an increasing raccoon population in the state of Kansas could be taking its toll on quail as well as a variety of other ground nesting birds, as stated in a recent Wichita Eagle article.

And they are not alone. Across the country predator control management plans are being put into place to curb the number of quail nests that are being depredated by raccoons and other mesopredators such as opossums and skunks.

One of the problems associated with nest predators in the midwest is that even when good quail habitat is present, it is usually in the form of a field border or buffer strip. While these conservation tools are highly valuable they also create a confined amount of space for birds to nest in, which makes their nests easy to find.

“It’s like a candy store out there. As we fragment habitats raccoons and skunks quickly know right where to go,” Robel said. “A lots changed in the last 10 to 20 years. These days I’d sure hate to be a ground-nesting bird.”

So why is the raccoon population growing? First and foremost is that they are a highly adaptive species. They are generalists and can thrive in nearly any habitat. Second, they really like the habitat that man is providing, and urban one. Third, is there is an overall lack of any significant predator for raccoons to worry about, other than motor vehicles. Thus a growing population.

As mentioned above, many folks are turning to predator management programs to help build their local quail population. However, it should be noted that a predator management program should not be the first line of defense when attempting to increase quail numbers. Habitat should always come first. If the habitat is there, and increasing evidence of nest predator is found, then a predator management program should be considered.

4 Responses to “Increasing Nest Predators Deadly for Quail and Other Songbirds”

  1. 1 Bird Advocate January 20, 2007 at 4:27 am

    What? The feral and roaming cat aren’t ibcluded? I’m amazed.

  2. 2 dwm376s January 20, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I agree, feral cats are a big time problem. I assume that they hurt songbirds much more than quail though, since most feral cats are in suburban areas or at least suburban/rural interfaces.

  3. 3 Bird Advocate January 21, 2007 at 6:58 am

    I’ve flushed many a big covey of quail in brush half a block from subdivisions. Most of those were fifty years ago, though, which leads me to believe feral and roaming cats have harmed our ground nesting birds more than most would think.
    Come to think of it, I cannot recall the last time I saw a meadowlark, another ground nesting bird that was very common here.

  4. 4 dwm376s January 21, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    That is an interesting insight. Where are you located Bird Advocate?

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