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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Are the Northern Bobwhite Quail the Small Game Population's Coal Miner's Canary?

I believe the plight of the Eastern Northern Bobwhite Quail just may be one of first indicators of what to expect for the future of our other small game populations.

I grew up Way Way Down South in the once upon a time Heart of Bobwhite Quail County. Prior to 1975 our covey finds where numerous and would usually be within the boundaries of cut Milo, Lespedeza and Soy Bean fields etc. A laid back relaxed hunt was usually the norm. Then ever so slowly, after 1975, we began locating more and more of our coveys in Dense Protective Covers such as Honeysuckle and Blackberry Thickets etc. The heavier protective cover was creepingly becoming more productive than the more open bean and grain fields and our covey finds where fewer and fewer. It is important here to note that there had been no significant changes in the habit of the areas hunted or surrounding areas during the time frame I am referencing. Changes are slow in some areas down South.

The Quail's habitat preference change and their dwindling numbers was in spite of DDT being banned in the US in 1972. DDT had been cited as being extremely detrimental to most all Bird Species and other Wildlife. It is my understanding DDT can take approx. 15 years ,give or take, to break down in the environment. Seems to me by now, if DDT was the or a major detrimental factor in our Game Bird decline, an increase in Bobwhite numbers would have been documented instead of the reverse; unless, there was another unknown cause at work along with the much publicized and ever increasing small game habitat loss.

Did you know?:
1. Protection was enacted in 1972 for Birds of Prey and in the same year the United States Banned the use of DDT.
2. A Hawk’s life span in the wild is approx. 17-20 years and has few if any predators other than man.
3. A pair of Hawk’s lay on average 4 eggs to hatch per year; therefore 1 pair creates 2 more pair. Then we have 3 pair that will be doing the same thing and then we have 9 pair and on and on. Much like an extremely lucrative compound interest rate we would all like to enjoy on our savings accounts and they have had over 40 years to multiply.

Hawks, "Chicken Hawks as they were once called in my neck of the woods", were slaughtered and hung on fences for all to see, a some what dismal but true historical fact. The old timers didn't take kindly to the Hawks snatching up their Sunday Chicken Dinners.

Rosalie Barrow Edge, a raptor conservationist and New York socialite known as the "indomitable hellcat", was the Founder of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary located in Pennsylvania. She was determined to stop what she considered the senseless slaughter of Birds of Prey for the Sport and benefit of the Small Game Hunting Community and Market Hunters. As I understand her reasoning, she felt nature's balance was off track and she wanted things brought back in balance.

If it were possible to calculate the reproduction numbers of Birds of Prey, small nest molesters and other larger fur- bearing predators, starting in 1972, the decline of the Quail and other Upland Bird populations would appear to have proportionately gone right along with their Predator's population increases. It is not rocket science folks, more predators means more food is required for their survival. Right! OR Wrong!......?

Now days, when I am in the outdoors, I tend to always see or hear some species of Hawk and end up seeing or hearing Zero Quail. Rosalie passed away in 1962. I wonder what her opinion of the balance would be now in 2013? It seems to me that Rosalie's goal has been achieved and then some.

I don’t necessarily advocate open season on Birds of Prey or lay the entire blame on them; however, nature's methods of balancing it's self can be extremely brutal when predator populations begin to out weigh their food sources. Are supplemental feeding programs in the near future for Avian Predators? Whoa.....!

When I first heard of the "Surrogator by Wildlife Tech." and it's intended purpose, I thought that hope had come at last. Here was a tool and rearing methodology to get past the problems created by the nest molesters and have the stocked birds living wild and imprinted to their surroundings, with very little human contact involved. Finally an opportunity to stock Birds that would have similar flight characteristics and behavior of true Wild Birds. I though it could possibly be like our put and take Trout and Striped Bass programs; however, I was soon to realize that even though the Surrogator worked well in the Wide Open Mid West States, such as Kansas, it did have it's problems in our Eastern Forested States. I believe since "Many More Available Perch Sites Exist in the East for the Flying Predators" Raptors are at the top of the problem list for the Surrogator. Heart Break.....!

These days when I have conversations with folks under 35 years old concerning Quail most say they have never even heard a Bob White’s intoxicating call or experienced the "rush" of being in the middle of a 20 Bird Wild Covey Flush. Nearly all of these folks I talk with readily accept the only reason for the near extinction of the quail in the Eastern United States as being due to loss of adequate small game habitat.

I realize the political issues associated with obtaining a revision on the Federal Treaties, to allow some sort of management strategy to be enabled for these Birds of Prey, would be darn near impossible if not totally impossible. I should spend my time. like most other dedicated small game enthusiast, trying to come up with better air raid shelters for our Upland Birds than sitting around moaning and whimpering about the condition my favorite past-time's condition is in.

I apologize for the lengthy post it's only due to my passion running a muck for Upland Birds and Bird Dogs and the fact that it is Deer Season and I can't get out and introduce the Pups to the most tenacious and UN-yielding of all our Game Birds, that wonderful survivor of the wild "The Magnificent Ruffle Grouse".
 

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Totaly agree with you on the hawks. They are killing machines. I have seen how many pigeons a hawk can kill in a short amount of time. Always thought they played a part in the demise of our small game but seeing how effective they are and how much one can actually kill made me more aware of just how much they realy impact the numbers of small game. If you ever saw what I saw you would feel the same way.
 

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Disagree. Hawk Mountain has been keeping migration totals since the 1930s. The total hawks migrating in 1972 was 15,285. The total this year was 15,234. Pretty close to the same numbers. Also first year mortality of young raptors is high. It's a tough world out there. It's the habitat! Bad habitat makes it easier for predators and tougher for prey species. I was out to ND this year and there are just as many hawks out there as we have here. Farming has drastically changed in the last 60 years. The average number of bushel of corn per acre was 16 in 1945. It is now 145 bushel to the acre. The crop fields are clean as a bone after harvest. No weeds and no spillage. The hedgerows have been cut out or narrowed to the point of being useless. We don't cut as much timber so much of the wooded cover is too thin for small game too. Actually you are right that it is the predators, but that is because the habitat is poor. Join a habitat organization like RGS, PF, W Turkey F or DU and make some habitat. Every little bit helps but in the end it's the government programs that have the ability to make landscape changes that will make the big difference.
 
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Clinton County said:
Totaly agree with you on the hawks. They are killing machines. I have seen how many pigeons a hawk can kill in a short amount of time. Always thought they played a part in the demise of our small game but seeing how effective they are and how much one can actually kill made me more aware of just how much they realy impact the numbers of small game. If you ever saw what I saw you would feel the same way.
Pigeons trapped in a loft are setting ducks for any predator, be it hawk, weasel or raccoon. A pigeon is a fantastic flyer and a real challenge for a hawk. I have had cooper hawks come in through the wires on a pigeon coop and they just go crazy. Think about if you were hungry and you walked in a room with prime rib, turkey and stuffing and all covered with gravy?
 

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Lynn, I was alive in 1972 and can tell you that today there are more hawks than back then. Anyone that even drives on the highway and never goes in the woods can see this. Today poultry on farms need a net over the birds to protect them . Back in 1972,if poultry had a net over them it,was to keep them from flying out. And as our hawk and owl numbers increased, their prey numbers have decreased. When they clean out an area of prey they move to another area. They have all day to hunt for prey, even though its a tough world out there. Think it may be tougher for the prey than the predator. When the hawks and owls killed off the last pheasants this did not hurt their survival they just ate more rabbits or grouse or chickens. When times get tough they will eat road kill. Never found a hawk or owl carcass that died of starvation. Lynn, you do great habitat work, but the prey animals need to come out of the cover sometime to eat or drink, or reproduce. Probably most habitat work done today is to provide cover from predators. The so called poor habitat is not whats killing and eating the smallgame its an uncontrolled numbers of avain predators. We will never be able to provide habitat that will bring back the numbers we had. What you need is to make the habitat we have work. And with the political protection that avain predators have, nothing will bring back smallgame numbers. There are areas that have good habitat and they too have very few smallgame. I see cover everyday, that fourty years ago would be loaded with smallgame and today none. Fourty years ago the poultry people didn't need netting, now they do. These people had to change the habitat for their domestic poultry with netting to keep their birds from being eaten. In the wild their is no 24 hour protecion, no nets, and thus little or no smallgame. The fellow that started the post hit the nail on the head. In the end its a government treaty that has made the biggest difference.
 

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bpottorff, I knew it wouldn't be long before I saw your name here
The examples you are giving are anecdotal. The info I am offering is recorded history and scientific study. Only 25% of raptors survive the first year and only 10 to 12% live long enough to reproduce. There are places in PA with high rabbit densities (look at some of the pics in this forum) and high pheasant densities (the switchgrass field in our WPRA). There was no special avian predator control. The habitat is good enough to protect the prey. Simple solution: create more high quality habitat. It's not an easy one though. It requires some effort to create small game habitat. The other alternative is to shoot a lot of hawks. Since that's not an option, the only one left is the one I mentioned, make more habitat.
 

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Lynn, almost sounds like you are saying hawks are the problem and better habitat is the solution. We might agree on this to a degree ,but I just can't see any habitat that would really make a large difference with all the hawks. The prey will come out of the cover sooner or later. As far as owls killing them on the roost what can be done to help with this. As far as the shoot alot of hawks comment, there are so many it would probably take years to even make a dent on them. Maybe someone could figure out what would need to be done to get a season on some kinds that are abundant. You are a worker when it comes to habitat work, maybe if your not buisy sometime you could see if there is a way to get some protections removed. Until then, like you say you can make more habitat.
 

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bpottorff said:
Lynn, almost sounds like you are saying hawks are the problem and better habitat is the solution.
Exactly, not just hawks though, all predators are the problem and habitat is the major solution. In the case of ground predators, you can trap or shoot some to eliminate some of the threat and it will improve prey numbers as long as you keep at it. Taking the predators out of an area won't help if the other predators close by move in to take their place. It's also true that some prey will be taken on the edges but good habitat with overhead cover will reduce avian predation to a point where you can still have good prey numbers.
 

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100% agree with Lynn.

When it some to Quail the issues are very complex though. Trying to simplify them is a disservice to Bob's.

Better habitat mitigates predation, but can also lead to mortality by Haybine.

Predator Funnels are created by killing off the predators in a given area. Kill a dozen foxes and another dozen move in in a couple months. It just doesn't work. Game birds do not breed at teh success of predators.

Better to implement habitat that mitigates predation and helps propagation.
 

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One of my friends did his masters research at NC state involving quail predation and habitat. In their study when predators were removed from an area with poor habitat quail populations did not respond. Quail populations in areas with good habitat were higher with no predator removal than areas of poor habitat with predator removal. Also interestingly one of the top nest predators were rats. They wouldn't destroy the nests at once but once they found a nest they would come back every night till the nest was emptied. Feral cats and dogs also had a large impact on nest success. The take away is that habitat is the key and the predator your blaming may not be the correct predator. (I've yet to see a there's too many rats thread). That's what the peer reviewed scientific research says. I await your antidotal responses.
 

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Well here is a response, not sure, but willing to bet that no hawks and owls were removed. Hawks like coopers and sharpies are great bird predators. Were these removed or was this research complicated by politics? And yes we have to many rats. Here in PA at the pheasant recovery areas avain predators kill the most. This is what the bioligist told us that was working with the pheasants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
kg300,

regretfully I don't have rememdy for the small game decline; however, it sounds as though your friend must already have at least one part of the antidote, that is if during their study they actually came up with a method of removing Raptors from a study area.
 

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If you read the report, you will see they did not control avian predators. But it doesn't make a difference. The results would be the same. Improving the habitat is the best way to increase the prey populations regardless if the predator walks or flies. With avian predators, high overhead cover is more important but it also is effective for the ground predators. There is also a quantity factor that we need to discover for the pheasant plan. We know a 40 acre field works well. Does a 10 acre field work 25% as good or only 5%? This will take some time but we are trying to work on big fields now because we know they work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
unless, there was another unknown cause at work along with the much publicized and ever increasing small game habitat loss.
I don’t necessarily advocate open season on Birds of Prey or lay the entire blame on them;
I was soon to realize that even though the Surrogator worked well in the Wide Open Mid West States, such as Kansas, it did have it's problems in our Eastern Forested States. I believe since "Many More Available Perch Sites Exist in the East for the Flying Predators" Raptors are at the top of the problem list for the Surrogator. Heart Break.....!
In what part of my original post is the assumption being made that I disagree with or reject the value of wildlife habitat and habitat improvement projects. I do; however, suspect the failure of the Surrogator as a put and take stocking tool in the Eastern Forested States is largely due to the Raptors. I did not suggest nor advocate the use of the Surrogator as a Propagation tool.

Be nice guys, I am on your side. We all want the same thing, Strong Wild Flying Birds for our Puppies without the associated cost of several, week long, Mid West Vacations that many of us just don't have the money or free time for.
 

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We are on the same side and want the same end result. Its good to look at the problems from all sides. With that said what habitat or solution is there for the owls that kill the birds at night while roosting. An owl will kill more than it will eat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
bpottorff

Regretfully I don't have the slightest clue for a solution that could address the Owl's night time nest predation tactic that has'nt been done before; however, I have begun to realize the only solution for my personal delimia is to come up with a way to move out west. Then spend what's left of life pursuing my passion for Dogs and Birds in barren, tree-less, monotonous, bland, UN-attractive, <span style="font-weight: bold">perch-less</span> habitat like in the pictures I have posted below.






Man, I sure would miss the beauty of our Gorgious Eastern Forest. I Guess you could say I am just not into Wide Open Spaces; therefore, it's a darned if I do and a darned if I don't situation.
 

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bpottorff said:
We are on the same side and want the same end result. Its good to look at the problems from all sides. With that said what habitat or solution is there for the owls that kill the birds at night while roosting. An owl will kill more than it will eat.
Most pheasants roost on the ground. There are few places where birds have roosted in the trees and we have not noticed an owl problem. The same winter cover that protects them during the day works at night too. Predators will always take some prey. You can't stop it but you can reduce with it. The advantage the prey species have is that they can out reproduce the predators. The average mortality here and in the Midwest for brood mortality is about 50%. We see 5 to 7 large pheasant chicks compared to the dozen or so eggs laid in the nest. At this level the population will grow. Weather is the bigger concern as it makes the habitat less useful. If we get 3 ft of snow, our switchgrass is going to lose a lot of its cover ability. Then they'll have to move to woody cover which is not as effective as switchgrass. Weather probably is as big a population controller as the habitat. The better the habitat, the less the weather is a factor.
 

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If you move out west, you're going to miss the grouse and the woodcock. Do what I do and go out west for a week or two and spend the rest of the season on pheasant, grouse and woodcock. The west is not immune from population declines. SD is down 60% from last year!! ND numbers are down a lot too. While open grassland provides good habitat through dilution (lots of it), We can have good habitat through quality. Both work, quantity or quality. We don't have as much so we have to make sure the habitat we have is the best it can be.
 
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