Good rains in mid-August across much of west and south Texas have folks excited about the possibility of late-hatches of bobwhite and blue quail. A poll of managers, ranchers and biologists has confirmed more reports of late (e.g., October) hatches than “normal”, especially in south Texas.
Quail hatched in mid-late October suggest a nest initiation date of about Labor Day. We assume a successful nest of 10 eggs requires about 38 days to complete (15 days for laying, 23 days for incubation). While somewhat common in south Texas, late nesting dates are unusual at our latitude.
However, “Chicks are being reported from TPWD biologists in Dimmitt and McMullen counties” said John McLaughlin, TPW’s quail biologist in Lubbock.
Dan A. Hughes reported that his ranch manager in Culberson County had been seeing October hatches. “He’s seen four coveys of babies this week with an average of 6 chicks per sighting.” Hughes also reported several chick sightings at his property in Medina County in the past two weeks.
In South Texas, Dr. Abe Woodard with the East Foundation chimed in from Jim Hogg County, “I found several nests during week of Oct 13-16 and checked one nest and 11 eggs had hatched. We’re seeing half-grown birds in about half of the coveys observed during recent helicopter surveys.” Given what appears to be a “good” late-hatch in South Texas those properties likely won’t be doing much hunting until January to allow October-hatched birds to reach maturity.
Sightings were generally less common north of IH-20 (i.e., most of the Rolling Plains) but two nests were found at RPQRR on 11 Oct. One nest contained 7 eggs and hatched; the other had 11 eggs and was still being incubated as of 10/29 (see “From Our Facebook page” for more details on these nests). Paul Melton reported seeing two October hatches in separate dove fields just southeast of Roby (Fisher County). Reports of three October broods were received from Stonewall County.
To learn about bobwhite development and how to age birds using feather molting patterns, read “Feathers: More than Just Flight,” by Vincik et al. in a newsletter from October 2021.
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