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Gardening For Wildlife - More Spring & Bobwhite Quail
April 21, 2008
Hi,

Don't ya just love it when the weather dudes are wrong and it's in your favor?

Yes, much of last week was in the 70's and not one of them was called for at first. The forecast did change eventually, however.

It isn't often that we in Michigan can say we are warmer than parts of Florida in mid-April.

My part of the planet is turning green in a hurry.

Daffodils are in bloom and looking good.

Grass is green,tree buds are swelling and some are opening.

Peeper frogs are really going at it now.

Yeah, it is nice to sit out on the deck after a long winter.

I know some of you can appreciate where I'm coming from on that subject.

All the song birds are busy courting or building nests.

The local Great blue heron visits the nearby pond. Sometimes Akita and I will scare it off. A couple of evenings ago it took off, circled and landed on top of the snag (dead tree) that is at the edge of the woods.

The wooded area is an open woods where Plaster creek runs through and the heron will hunt there as well.

When ice was still on the pond, the ducks and geese would use the creek as well.

I enjoy watching the water fowl maneuver through the trees as the descend into the creek.

I wish I knew where the Red-tail hawks were nesting. Though it isn't a wise thing to get to close, as hawks are quick to abandon a nest if they feel threatened.

They are poetry in motion as they glide along. Ziggy the poodle pup didn't take long to remove some stitches, leaving an open wound. Karen is doing her best keeping bandages. Of course you know how that goes.

I managed to get a bit of yard clean up taken care of and of course, there is the surveying of the premise to see what survived the winter and what didn't.

YES, Wednesday is kidney stone smashing day.....

I CAN'T WAIT.

It's getting that time, that you may want to wait until after nesting season to do some major pruning or even cutting down of trees.

As trees and shrubs fill out, it becomes difficult to see where birds may be nesting.

If you can wait to have a tree pruned or removed, wait until nesting season is over.

I understand there are times when dead trees must come down,as they become dangerous to our health and structures.

A dear friend and reader reminded me of that last week.

If you know of a nest, and the utility companies are tree trimming, ask them to hold off till the birds fledge.

Sometimes they will wait for nature.

I'm in a wonderful situation, I get to hear from all of you and what you are doing in your yards and habitats.

The different plantings, different birds and other wildlife we may not have here in Michigan.

Yet, there is still something we all have in common.

The love of nature, our planet and future generations.

Birders and gardeners love to share.

I even get to hear about new births in the family and other good things.

Remember, if you have some egg shells, wash them, nuke them and crush them up and offer them to your birds.

Egg shells make a wonderful grit and a great source of calcium for egg laying females.

If you live in a cooler climate like me, you may still want to keep your birdbath heater going. or at least in place. It doesn't take much for a cold night to bust up or crack a birdbath.

When you do remove the heater, always soak it in white vinegar to remove to calcium deposits that build up over winter.

Now is also a good time to give your a good cleaning.

Break out the mister and crank up the pumps.

More birds are attracted by the sight and sound of water than they are to our feeders.

I know.................

It sounds like I'm repeating myself, but with new readers and we all need reminders from time to time.

Warmer weather also brings out butterflies and other insects that hibernate as adults

Many of the insects offer protein for birds and some migrating birds like Martins and Warblers, insects are what they live on period.

If you are privileged enough to have swallows around, take a few minutes and watch these birds in flight. How the hunt on the fly, drink and bathe on the fly.

God made so many birds to fill so many niches and I believe also for our enjoyment.

Several Juncos are still hanging around and I enjoy the little birds.

I'm down to the dominant pair of Cardinals now.

It will be a couple of weeks yet before I start to see Orioles and a bit longer for regular hummer visits.

Don of North Central, Indiana asked me about Bobwhite quail. Like me, he recalls memories of these birds but where did they go?

I understand this isn't that informative for you folks of the Rockies and West, but stick around for the fun of it.

There are six species of Quail North of the Mexican border, but Bobwhite Quail this the only one East of the Rockies. water sources a good cleaning.

Break out the mister and crank up the pumps.

More birds are attracted by the sight and sound of water than they are to our feeders.

I know.................

It sounds like I'm repeating myself, but with new readers and we all need reminders from time to time.

Warmer weather also brings out butterflies and other insects that hibernate as adults

Many of the insects offer protein for birds and some migrating birds like Martins and Warblers, insects are what they live on period.

If you are privileged enough to have swallows around, take a few minutes and watch these birds in flight. How the hunt on the fly, drink and bathe on the fly.

God made so many birds to fill so many niches and I believe also for our enjoyment.

Several Juncos are still hanging around and I enjoy the little birds.

I'm down to the dominant pair of Cardinals now.

It will be a couple of weeks yet before I start to see Orioles and a bit longer for regular hummer visits.

Don of North Central, Indiana asked me about Bobwhite quail.

Like me, he recalls memories of these birds but where did they go?

I understand this isn't that informative for you folks of the Rockies and West, but stick around for the fun of it.

There are six species of Quail North of the Mexican border, but Bobwhite Quail this the only one East of the Rockies.




Northern Bobwhite quail, Virginia quail, or Bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus).

All the same bird but different common names. The bobwhite quail is a small native gamebird, familiar to many by its cheery "bob-bob-white" whistle throughout the spring and summer.

The Bobwhite is an important gamebird ranking 2nd behind the phesant.

Quail are also popular with bird watchers and other users of our outdoor resources (it would be a rare treat for me to see one these days).

From mid-summer to early spring, the characteristic coveying behavior of quail is evident and groups of 8 to 25 birds are common.

At night, quail roost in a tight circle with their heads pointing outwards; this gives all members of the covey mutual protection from predators and helps conserve body heat.

The location of a quail roosting site can be determined by the characteristic oblong pattern of droppings left by the covey.

In early American history, Quail populations exploded as trees were harvested and land opened up to create ideal habitat.

Quail could be found just about every where.

As a young lad, it was common to see these birds and to hear the familiar "bob, bob, white"

Bobwhite enjoy hedge rows, fence rows, medium brush fields and some open woodland.

Quail prefer to stay on the ground and only fly to flee danger or to move great distances.

So you can imagine, as North America was being settled, farms and fields were ideal breeding and feeding grounds.

By the 1960's a dramatic change took place.

Fewer farms were being worked, tracts of land became housing developments and the population of Bobwhite quail have plummeted as much as 80% in some places.

Many birds and quail are in that group, need certain habitat to survive and breed. Without the habitat, there is no survival.

Identification:

While there are significant differences in the appearance of male and female bobwhite, it may be difficult to distinguish sexes unless the birds are closely observed in the hand.

Males have white chins and upper throats, a white stripe that extends from the bill through the eye to the back of the head, and a brown to black chest collar under the throat and chin.

Feathers of the breast and abdomen are white with black barring while upper body and wing feathers are muted tones of brown and gray barred with black.

By contrast, females have tan instead of white coloration on the throat, chin, eye-strip and underparts. Females also lack black neck collars and exhibit brown barring or mottling of body feathers.

Bobwhite quail are about 9 to 10 inches in length and average about six to seven ounces in weight, with females slightly heavier than males.

Newly hatched chicks have a downy grayish-buff underside with black strips down the side and a chestnut-red back and head.

Reproduction:

In late March and early April, coveys begin to break up as pair bonds form between individual males and females prior to the breeding season.

Increasing daylight hours brings about this pairing and stimulates growth of the reproductive organs in both sexes (last week's letter).

Bobwhite nests are characteristically found in herbaceous vegetation consisting of mixed grasses and forbs such as those found in fence-rows, roadsides or idle areas.

Nests are generally located within 50 feet of an edge.

Both the cock and hen work at building the nest by digging a shallow scrape and lining it with dead leaves and grass.

Adjacent grasses are arched over the nest, concealing it from overhead and giving it the appearance of a small tunnel.

Nests may be established as early as mid-April or as late as early September, but most young are hatched around the end of June.

Unusually cold or warm springs may either delay or advance the peak of hatching.

Egg laying begins several days after the nest is built at the rate of about one egg per day until the clutch (averaging 14) is completed.

All eggs in a nest hatch within a 24-hour period and adults and young leave the nest together as soon as the chicks are dry.

Mortality of chicks is especially high in the first two weeks following hatch and by fall broods may have sustained losses of 30 to 50 percent.

The chicks can fly in two to three weeks and will resemble adults at 15 weeks.

Adults and young remain together in a covey until late fall, when the "fall shuffle" (mixing of individual quail between coveys) takes place.

Historically quail were thought to be monogamous, pairing and staying with a single mate during the breeding season.

Hens were thought to perform the incubation and brood-rearing activities with only slight help from the male.

Recent studies conducted by biologists indicate hens are polyandrous.

By following quail carrying miniature radio transmitters during the breeding season, research biologists determined that male and female quail often switch mates.

A hen may lay and incubate a clutch of eggs or she may leave the nest to her mate to incubate, and move to another area, select another mate, and lay a second or even third clutch of eggs.

Males can successfully incubate and raise a brood without help from a hen.

A surprising discovery is that some hens care for their brood for just a few weeks after hatching then abandon the brood to care for itself and find another mate and raise another brood the same summer.

Broods abandoned at 3 weeks of age have been known to survive to full growth without assistance from adult quail.

It is now know that quail are much more opportunistic and persistent breeders than once realized. Because they are adaptable and will make attempts to nest throughout the summer.

This is one reason quail show an amazing ability to rebound from substantial population losses.

Following heavy winter losses, quail populations may recover completely in two to four years, given good weather during nesting and mild winters between successive years.

It seems the only obstacle wild Quail can't over come is man.

Habitat Needs:

Quail are fond of early successional habitats (recently disturbed habitats) especially where several of these habitats come together and create a diversity of edges.

An ideal land-use pattern for bobwhite might be an area with 30 percent brushy/weedy habitat and 10 percent woodland interspersed with odd shaped row crop fields.

As the degree of interspersion (that is, the mixing or breaking up of these habitats), of these habitat types is increased, a given area will become more attractive to quail.

Edge effect can be increased by planting or maintaining hedge-rows, brushy draws, shrubby and weedy fence-rows, and windbreaks also provide both travel lanes and vital escape cover for quail.

Attractiveness of an idle area for quail is also dictated by the type and structure of vegetation.

Quail (like pheasants) move primarily by walking, resorting to flight only to escape predators or travel significant distances.

Given their diminutive stature it is not surprising that quail avoid areas of dense, thick, matted vegetation like switchgrass.

Areas with excessive litter or lodged matter are not attractive to quail since movement is hampered by dead vegetation.

Food Habits:

Quail generally forage twice a day, in early morning and mid to late afternoon.

Bobwhites are primarily seed eaters, using both weed seed and waste grains. Corn and soybeans form the major portion of the diet in fall, winter and spring.

Among weed seeds, ragweed is often consumed. Insects are an important food item for adult females during the reproductive period because of the high protein demands of egg laying.

Young quail also feed very heavily on insects, gradually shifting to a greater proportion of seeds as they near adult size.

The foods consumed by quail, however, may vary from year to year and season to season based on availability.

Big Business:

Bobwhite quail farming is big business in several states. For example, in state of Georgia, private growers raise and sell over 5,000,000 quail a year to hunting clubs.

Bobwhite quail were even introduced in the Oregon/Washington area where they are the official game bird of Washington state.

Of all the quail farm raised and released, it is estimated that 1% lives past the 6 month mark.

Imagine that many birds released for game and I haven't seen a single one in decades.

Biological Facts:

Weight: 6-8 ounces; females slightly heavier than males.

Length: 8-11 inches.

Flight speed: 30-40 mph.

Habitat: brushy/weedy early successional habitats interspersed with agriculture.

Foods: waste grains and weed seeds.

Life expectancy: 90-95% annual mortality rate; most live only about 1 year.

Mating: polyandrous; females will reproduce with more than one male in a year.

Nesting period: peak May-July, range March-September.

Nests: shallow depression in the ground lined with grass or leaves with overhanging vegetation.

Clutch size: 12-16 eggs for first nests (range 7-28).

Eggs: dull white or cream; ovate (11/4 x 1 inches). I ncubation: 23 days.

Young: precoccial; leave nest immediately; can make short flights at 12-14 days.

Number broods per year: 1-2; persistent renesters.

Nest success: ave. 56% (range 30-60%).

Fledge: young identical to adults at 15 weeks and remain with parents through fall and winter.

Migration: none; year-round resident.

Will this bird survive in the wild?

Only time will tell.

Two of our six quail species, Northern Bobwhite and Scaled Quail, are showing significant population declines across their range.

Of the other four species, two (California and Gambel's Quail) seem to be doing well at this time, and the other two (Montezuma and Mountain Quail) are difficult to assess using the available data.

I have readers Nevada and Oregon that keep me updated on their California quail.

There you have it Don.

The the best news for our beloved Bobwhite, is that land management must improve for these birds to make a come back in some regions.

We can do a small part, but there must be cooperation with others and of course, state and federal governments.




Well, its getting that time to fly for now.

Do you have a bird, butterfly or garden question I might be able to answer? Maybe you have a gimmick or idea that works for you that you would like to share with other?

This week we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. We have official days to clean up out home and to plant a tree.

Here are some great instructions for planting trees, it works for shrubs too.




For us northern folk, it is getting time to clean up and put out hummingbird and oriole feeders (Maybe two weeks for me).

It is always a good idea to get feeders up about a week before your first expected visitors. Often there is the early bird and he will need some quick energy.

You may want to brush up on hummingbird information, hummingbird information, or if you're new to birding and gardens, you definitely want to read up on hummingbirds.

Thank you for spending some time with me this week and I look forward to spending time with you again.

Until then, here is your thought for the week.

"Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice."

Stanley Harowitz

When that happens, just smile.

Smiles are good for everyone

Wear yours and share your best.

Until next time my friend.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.
























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