By Karen Brasher
Quail season will open in Mississippi Nov. 21 with relatively low bird populations, but new agricultural practices may provide a boost for the bob-white-whistling game fowl.
A recent Mississippi State University-led study found that implementation of an agricultural initiative known as Conservation Practice 33 – Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds or CP33 increases fall populations of bobwhite quail.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture first introduced CP33 in 2004. It provides incentives for establishing 30- to 120-foot-wide buffers of diverse native grasses and herbs along the edges of crop fields to provide habitat for bobwhites and other grassland birds.
Scientists in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center coordinated wildlife biologists from 14 states in the CP33 study. Their goal was to monitor differences in bobwhite and upland songbird densities and vegetation characteristics in 600 buffered and 600 unbuffered agricultural fields.
Results from all 14 states indicate CP33 works at restoring bobwhite quail populations and increases the number of local bobwhite coveys. In the fall and winter, bobwhites forage, roost and travel in coveys, which are social units of 10 to 15 birds.