Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch

Operation Idiopathic Decline: Texas Tech Researchers Discover Blood-Sucking Parasite Epidemic in Wild Quail

Operation Idiopathic Decline confirmed that bobwhites across the Rolling Plains of Tx and OK are heavily infested with eyeworms and cecal worms. Additional research is underway at the Tx Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University to assess how eyeworms impact flying and foraging ability of quail, and towards the development of a method to treat wild quail for these two roundworms. Here the lead investigator on the project, Dr. Ron Kendall, provides an update.


Congrats to Becki Perkins on her publication in JWM

Many of you “overlapped” Becki’s tenure here at RPQRR (or Desert QM or Bobwhite Brigade).  Congrats to her today for getting her MS thesis research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.   Northern Bobwhite Predator Avoidance Behavior in Response to Varying Types of Threat

Becki had to resort to “Plan B” when her initial thesis project proved unattainable, but she “improvised, adapted, and overcame.”  Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Thanks Becki for your hard work, scholarship, perseverance, grit, “Becki do-better talks”, and some mean peach cobblers along the way!  You’ve set a high standard for the rest of us and we’re better off for knowing you.

Becki’s thesis was voted top thesis at TTU in 2012 .

Becki is about halfway through her PhD now at Texas Tech.  May the lessons learned here at RPQRR (and at Centennial) help her attain that goal and continue to shine.


Mark Your Calendar: 7th Annual RPQRR Field Day set for Sept. 26

The theme for RPQRR’s annual field day is “Restoration of Quail and Their Habitat.”  Tour stops will include our ongoing translocation efforts (bobwhites and blues), water harvesting to make “quail oases”, renovation of CRP pastures to enhance habitability, camera-trapping, and updates on other efforts.  Pre-registration is $10 per person if received by Sept. 21; $20 thereafter and at the door.  Click here for Flyer


New Record Number of Nests Recorded @ RPQRR

49 nests recorded thus far at RPQRR; the most we’ve recorded since we started RPQRR in 2008.  “Nest survival” (i.e., hatch rate) at this time stands at 51%.  Across the bobwhite’s range nest survival is only about 30%.  Our translocated blue quail (n = 40 alive on 1 May) are responsible for 17 nests to date (9 of which have hatched).  At the Operation Transfusion site in Stephens County, a total of 36 nests have been recorded as of 6-30-2014 with a current hatch rate of 46%.  There were a total of 56 hens alive on May 1 there.  For bobwhites here at RPQRR, we had 56 hens alive (38 “native” and 28 “translocated”).  Currently we have 18 nests produced by “native” birds and 8 produced by the translocated birds.  Seven of 19 nests hatched and an additional 7 birds are currently nesting.  This last group of translocated bobwhites was an attempt for us to re-create the “drunken sailor effect” (i.e., prolific nesting by translocated birds as Michelle Downey observed on her Operation Transfusion site last summer); thus far we haven’t observed it here at RPQRR).


Operation Idiopathic Decline: Search for the Smoking Gun

The role that disease and parasites may play in quail dynamics has been largely ignored since the 1920s. After the (in our opinion) inexplicable decline of quail in the Rolling Plains, the Board of RPQRF “got serious” about disease and funded a comprehensive project dubbed “Operation Idiopathic Decline.” Currently (as of Feb 2014), the RPQRF has invested $3.4 million into this ground-breaking study of disease and parasites. This webisode explains OID in more depth.


Operation Transfusion Update

This research project began during spring 2013 with the release of wild-trapped bobwhites on two release sites located on a well-managed 7,500 acre ranch on the Stephens and Shackelford county line. To date, this project has translocated a total of 409 wild bobwhites; 202 during March 2013 and 207 during March 2014. Of these, 186 females were radiomarked; 95 in 2013 and 91 in 2014.

Quail eggs

About 41.0% of the radio-marked females remained alive 6 months after their release in 2013. A year later, the status of the 2013 radio-marked hens (n=95) shows: 7.4% are alive, 75.8% have died, 8.4% had their radio fail, and 8.4% are missing. The current status of the 2014 radio-marked hens (n=91) is as follows: 45.1% are alive, 46.1% have died, 3.3% had their radio fail, and 5.5% are missing. The majority of the 2013 and 2014 mortalities, just under half, were attributed to predation by raptors.

Translocated radio-marked hens produced 72 nests during 2013 and 17 (thus far) during the 2014 nesting season. Of the 72 nests monitored during 2013, we estimated that a minimum of 285 eggs hatched. We are hopefully that many more nests will be produced this year, especially given the recent rain event!

Next spring (our third and final year for this effort) we plan to translocate 200 more wild bobwhites to the release site during March 2015 and to continue monitoring them through 2015. We are using whistle call counts, covey call counts, and helicopter surveys to estimate bobwhite population relative abundance on the release area and a control area (a site that does not receive any translocated bobwhites). Estimates will be compared between the release and control area and among years (pre- and post-translocation) in order to evaluate the success of the translocation at augmenting the bobwhite population size.

Thank you to all people who have helped make this project possible. A special thank you to all of our “covey donors” who have been so generous with their time, land, and quail! Without their kindness, this project would not be possible. Funding provided primarily by Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation.


Scaled Quail Release at RPQRR We released 78 scaled ("blue") quail here at RPQRR over past week in an attempt to restore them to the Ranch (our last covey of resident blues vanished in 2012). These birds came from several "donor ranches" in west Texas and their support of our efforts is greatly appreciated. Here we release 14 blues in the presence of the 2014 QuailMasters class. The birds have been "sequestered" for 30 days eating a mix of milo and a layer ration. The females have radio-collars attached to them and will be monitored to determine site fidelity, survival, and reproduction over the summer.  

Webisodes - Sounds a quail makes You’re familiar with the iconic ‘poor-bob-white’ whistle and the memories that such a whistle evokes.  But did you know that a bobwhite makes over a dozen different “vocalizations?”  Here Dr. Dale Rollins, executive director for the RPQRR and a World Quail Calling Champion (2001) does his a capella renditions of various quail calls and related sounds.  Researchers and quail managers often base their “quail counts” on various whistles that the quail make.  Learning to interpret these calls (and maybe even mimic them!) can give you a better appreciation of “quail talk” and perhaps even make you a more successful quail hunter.

We need Surrogators! As we seek to document/refine the trapping/translocation process, several questions arise.  For example, is a “soft release” preferable to a “hard release?”  A “soft release” means the birds would be “sequestered” at the release site for some time before their release whereas a “hard release” means they (in this case quail) are released immediately upon arrival.  A pilot study in 2013 involved a soft release of 14 blue quail at RPQRR.  Their survival (11 of 14 survived through the breeding season) and site fidelity (most stayed within 400 yards of their release site) suggest the soft release method was effective.  To test this hypothesis, we need to sequester half of the coveys for at least thirty days before releasing them.  During that time, we provide a layer ration to hopefully help bring the females into laying condition.  We’re looking to borrow perhaps 20 Surrogators or “Johnny houses” in order to temporarily house the quail.  If you have either that we might borrow (or you’d like to donate) for six weeks, please contact me at drollins@quailresearch.org.

Operation Transfusion Seeks Quail DonorsMagnanimous” is the word I referenced several times last month as we recruited “quail donors” to assist our ongoing (and expanding) Operation Transfusion research project.  The blue quail effort will translocate blues to the RPQRR and the Matador WMA.  Our goal is 500 wild quail (300 bobwhites and 200 blues).   Such a quest would be an impossibly tall order if it wasn’t for quail donors in Bailey, Concho, Fisher, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling, Stonewall, and Tom Green counties.  As I bid adieu a cooperator in Reagan County last Tuesday I thanked him profusely for access to his ranch.  He replied “we’re glad to help—it’s for a good cause.”

Team Quail AgriLife Research AgriLife Extension Ceasar Klemerg Wildlife Research Park Cities Quail Unlimited




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