Bobwhite Experts to Converge on Iowa July 29-Aug. 1

… New NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program Taking Center Stage

Bobwhite experts from around the country will converge in West Des Moines, IA July 29-August 1 for the 2014 meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC).

Theme of the meeting is “Living on the Edge,” a reference to where the northern edge of the quail range meets the transitional edge between grasslands, forests and agriculture, according to Todd Bogenschutz, who is coordinating the event on behalf of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Iowa is one of 25 member states of the NBTC, the technical group guiding the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), and West Des Moines will be the farthest north the bobwhite group has convened for its annual meeting.

Expected to be a central topic is the new NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program (http://goo.gl/wcQJBh). It was adopted by the NBCI Management Board – representing state wildlife agency directors — in March. The voluntary program lays out a specific, step-by-step roadmap for identifying and developing NBCI Bobwhite Focal Areas, along with measures of success, for impact on a landscape scale. And although the primary target is the bobwhite, the program’s impacts extend far beyond bobwhites to include a suite of declining songbirds, pollinators and other species. Six states, including Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia, beta tested the approach in 2013 and are moving forward with implementation. Oklahoma and Nebraska are expected to join in, and other states are primed to make announcements as well.

“I think some people will perhaps be surprised at some of the states that step up to the plate on this new program, developed by the states themselves, to make restoration attempts at a landscape scale more clear cut, definable and measurable,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “The NBCI states run the gamut from the second largest state in the U.S. to the second smallest, and they cover a landscape that varies from the cornfields of the Midwest to the rangelands of Texas and the longleaf pine of the South. The variety is incredible.”

A wide range of additional issues will also be discussed in the context of bobwhite conservation and habitat management, including forest management, agriculture policy, grassland and grazing lands issues.

NBCI will also debut its National Fire Bird Conservation Awards program in Iowa. The program gives state quail coordinators the opportunity to recognize an individual, group or entity that has made “significant contributions” to the advancement of “the habitat-based, landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites.”  (The term “fire bird” was first coined by biologist Herbert Stoddard, who published the first comprehensive study of bobwhites in 1931 and made the connection between the bobwhite’s dependency on fire on the landscape in much of its range.)

“Landscape-scale habitat restoration is exactly what we are all about,” said McKenzie. “And if there are individuals, groups or entities that are assisting the effort at that level then we want to recognize and thank them, and we want the world to know their contributions. We can’t restore wild bobwhite populations alone. It’s going to take the cooperation of many others.”

NBTC membership consists of dues-paying students or professionals (minimum bachelors degree, or currently enrolled as a student in wildlife or related science or art) employed by a state, provincial or federal agency, conservation group, or private company that has an interest in the conservation of wild bobwhites, or is self-employed with a professional interest in the conservation of wild bobwhites.

The Wildlife Society (TWS) is also offering up to 30 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) for maintenance of the “certified professional wildlife biologist” title for those certified wildlife biologists participating.

Cost of registration, including membership dues, is $250. Eligible participants can register at http://meetings.iowatws.org

Meeting sponsors currently include Iowa State Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Quail Coalition and King Communications.

NBCI Welcomes New Faces as 5 States ‘Reload’ for 2014 Conservation Efforts

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is welcoming new faces in the bobwhite conservation community as five of the 25 NBCI states have identified new “quail coordinators” to “reload” for efforts during the new year following recent vacancies.

“As the range-wide initiative to restore bobwhites, NBCI is pleased that states continue to remain committed to the bobwhite conservation challenge by refilling these vital quail coordinator positions,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.  “We will miss our friends and colleagues who are moving on but look forward to working with the new people who are bringing valuable energy, skills and ideas to our quail community.”



Jeff Prendergast is the new small game specialist stationed at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Hays regional office. For more than two years, Prendergast worked as a biologist technician in southeast Kansas and most recently as a district biologist in northeast Kansas. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences at Emporia State University.  

In his new position Prendergast will be coordinating several small game surveys and representing KDWPT on the Midwest Pheasant Study Group and the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, and will be implementing the state’s quail plan along with Jim Pitman. He will also work with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in their Hays regional office helping them design and implement wildlife-friendly conservation practices.

Prendergast can be contacted at 785-628-8614 or at jeffrey.prendergast@ksoutdoors.com.  


Photo of Scott Sudkamp  

Scott Sudkamp is the new small game coordinator for Missouri Department of Conservation as part of the Species

and Habitat Unit in the Wildlife Division. Sudkamp will work with department staff and partners to improve coordination and focus of efforts to manage all small game, freeing Max Alleger to concentrate more on grasslands and thus enabling MDC to increase leadership in both arenas.

Sudkamp received his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology and a minor in Botany from Eastern Illinois University in 1994 and completed his M. S. degree in Zoology/Wildlife at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1997. His thesis, “A Landscape-Level Assessment of Upland Habitat in Illinois,” highlighted quail and offers a beneficial perspective in this new role. In 1998, he became assistant manager for a 28,000-acre wildlife management area and two smaller areas in the southeastern corner of the Texas panhandle for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

He began his MDC career in 2002 as a wildlife biologist on conservation areas around Lamar, working with grasslands and wetlands, providing workshops to the public, managing small game, and conducting youth hunts. Two years later, Scott became a Private Lands Conservationist serving Vernon and Bates Counties. He also served as the feral hog planning section chief for the Kansas City Region and worked on various teams including Grassland Strategic Management Plan Team, Quail Technical Committee, Grassland Review Committee, MOQuail Blog Team and Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society Professional Development Committee.  Sudkamp co-authored Quail-Friendly Plants of the Midwest, http://extension.missouri.edu/p/mp903.

Sudkamp can be contacted at 417-884-2089 or at Scott.Sudkamp@mdc.mo.gov.

Photo of Scott Cox  


With a B.S. in wildlife and fisheries ecology from Oklahoma State and 23 years experience with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Scott Cox is the new coordinator of the state’s upland game program and will be providing technical assistance to landowners and serving as a liaison on Oklahoma State’s quail research. Cox was previously a wildlife biologist managing the Spavinaw Hills and Oologah wildlife management areas, a research biologist responsible for hunting-related activities on the Beaver River, Optima and Schultz wildlife management areas and the Rita Blanca Grasslands, and a research biologist responsible for supervising a northern bobwhite mortality study in the western portion of the state.  Cox has published various quail research studies.

Cox can be contacted at 405-301-9945 or coxcovey@junct.com


Photo of McTaggart  

Stan McTaggart has been a district wildlife biologist with the Illinois DNR working with waterfowl and upland hunting sites along the Illinois River in District 8. Before his position with the Illinois DNR, he worked for the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District as a biologist and coordinator with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) in Springfield, IL and as a term biologist for the U.S. Forest Service on the Shawnee National Forest in Vienna, IL. McTaggart earned his undergraduate degrees at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and his MS Degree at Eastern Illinois University.

McTaggart can be contacted at (217)558-6623 or Stan.McTaggart@Illinois.gov.


Photo of Simmons  


p style=”text-align: center;”>South Carolina

South Carolina native and Clemson biological sciences graduate Willie Simmons is the new small game project supervisor and quail coordinator for South Carolina. Simmons has been with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for over 20 years and has extensive experience with public and private land management. Most recently, Simmons worked in Region 3 as alligator coordinator, youth hunt and mobility impaired hunt coordinator.  He also was active with heritage preserves, WMA properties, prescribed fire, pesticide application, and nuisance wildlife.

Simmons fills the vacancy created when Billy Dukes, former chair of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee, was named the state’s assistant chief of wildlife. Both Simmons and Dukes will be active with national technical committee and in the implementation of the state’s new quail restoration plan.

Simmons can be contacted at 803-734-3898, or SimmonsW@dnr.sc.gov.

NBCI’s 2013 Almanac Examines Bobwhite Restoration Advancements


While the wild bobwhite quail population continues to struggle, the momentum to restore their populations range wide continues to grow with several important pieces falling into place over the last year, according to Don McKenzie, director of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).

In the new issue of NBCI’s Bobwhite Almanac, State of the Bobwhite 2013, McKenzie recounts the increasing number of active partnerships supporting habitat work, major donations to critical bobwhite support functions, the growing national coalition aimed at changing federal agriculture policy to benefit bobwhites and other grassland species, and NBCI’s official entry into the arena of mine reclamation for grasslands wildlife among other advancements.

South Carolina’s fall 2013 launch of a new initiative aimed at landscape-scale restoration of wild bobwhites is among several positive highlights for the species in the newest NBCI report. The Almanac details South Carolina’s upcoming push in 30 counties, aimed primarily at management activities on forested lands with the creation of forest/woodland savannas, and agricultural lands utilizing field borders and conversion of exotic grass pastures to native warm-season grasses.

The Almanac also examines the impact of federal agriculture policy on bobwhites, with NBCI Agriculture Policy Coordinator Kyle Brazil writing, “The continued existence of meaningful populations of bobwhites, as well as an entire suite of grassland birds, depends in large part on our ability to influence (federal) policy.

That policy has subsidized the planting of millions of acres of exotic grasses to the exclusion of native grasses and to the detriment of bobwhites and other grassland species. Integrating native grasses back into America’s pasturelands is one of NBCI’s major objectives in concert with other conservation groups.

NBCI Forestry Coordinator Mike Black also examines the enormous potential of forest management practices to positively affect quail populations.

“While we typically think of classic bobwhite habitat in an agricultural setting … our best habitat work on behalf of bobwhites will actually occur in the forested landscapes from New Jersey to Texas and Oklahoma to Florida,” contends Black. “Much of this is already occurring, often with very positive results for quail.”

The Almanac highlights examples of forest management that are increasing bobwhite populations, including shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and a similar project with longleaf pine on a wildlife management area in Alabama.

Also detailed in the Almanac is the effort by six states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – to pilot NBCI model focal areas that will, for the first time, couple large-scale habitat management with collaborative monitoring. The new report is available for viewing at www.bringbackbobwhites.org, and printed copies are available for purchase at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/donate-2/online-store.

SEAFWA Endorses Full Funding for NBCI by States

The Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) has voted unanimously to endorse member states’ fully funding the core operations of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) for an initial three-year period.  This non-binding resolution paves the way for the states to build their national bobwhite restoration initiative to the full strength originally envisioned, while the fledgling Bobwhite Foundation attracts donors and eventually matures into the ability to fund the 25-state effort.

SEAFWA’s primary membership is the state wildlife management agencies of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, and SEAFWA is the entity that originally launched the cooperative multi-state approach to restore wild bobwhite quail populations. Two other regional associations of state wildlife agencies – the Northeastern and Midwest – also endorse the NBCI, and several of their states actively participate.

NBCI Management Board Chairman and executive director of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Bob Duncan, said support for fully funding the initiative by state wildlife management agencies is appropriate because the bobwhite is a game bird for which the states have legal responsibility, the NBCI is an initiative “by the states for the states,” quail conservation is beneficial to a variety of other priority species in decline and NBCI staff can be most effective when concentrating on bobwhite conservation rather than fundraising.

“Unified, elevated support of the NBCI by the states also will inspire confidence in potential donors to the Bobwhite Foundation,” said Duncan.

To date, NBCI member states have chipped in to pay for the director position while the rest of the NBCI capacity is supported by short-term grants, such as from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Cities Quail chapter of the Texas Quail Coalition. 

 “The time is right for the states to step up en mass and raise their NBCI support to a higher level,” Duncan said. “Such leadership by the bobwhite states would send a clear signal to their partners and sportsmen that bobwhite restoration is a top priority. NBCI’s small staff has made enormous strides at the national and regional levels to help states identify and deal with obstacles and opportunities in the bobwhite restoration effort. But bobwhites didn’t disappear overnight and they won’t reappear overnight.

“What NBCI staff is doing for bobwhites is what no state can do alone … keep the species in the national conservation dialogue, and continue to identify national and regional opportunities to restore wild populations and do so with the cumulative weight of 25 states. NBCI needs to spend more time on behalf of bobwhites and the states, and less time trying to find continued funding. We also need to be much more active in grasslands issues, in mine reclamation issues, and in building and maintaining the online tools and national bobwhite databases the states need,” said Duncan.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. Policy guidance is provided by the NBCI Management Board, with each state wildlife agency director represented. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southern Company and the Park Cities Chapter of the Texas Quail Coalition.

QUWF Steps Up Support of Wild Quail Restoration

PORTLAND, OR — The Buffalo, Missouri-based Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF) stepped up support of national efforts to restore wild bobwhite quail populations recently, signing a formal agreement in support of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) during the annual meeting of the Association of Fish &amp; Wildlife Agencies.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;In the agreement, signed by QUWF Founder/Executive Director Craig Alderman and NBCI Management Board Chairman Dr. Jon Gassett during a regular meeting of the management board, the organization pledged to adopt and work with their local chapters to provide on-the-ground support of the NBCI Model Focal Area program in their respective states. The focal area approach is the new strategy being developed by the wildlife management agencies of the 25 NBCI-member states to increase wild quail populations at a landscape level.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&ldquo;QUWF is dedicated to improving habitat for multiple species of upland game, from deer and turkey to quail and rabbits,&rdquo; said Alderman. &ldquo;Everything done to help quail also helps other upland species in some way, and this gives our chapters the opportunity to leverage our impact on the habitat.&rdquo;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&ldquo;From the beginning we&rsquo;ve been very clear that the coordinated, on-the-ground support from our private conservation partners would be crucial in improving wild bobwhite quail numbers at the landscape scale,&rdquo; said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. &ldquo;NBCI and the states look forward to identifying specific focal areas in the bobwhite range where QUWF chapters can target on-the-ground support. This is another big step for wild bobwhite restoration.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Founded in 2009, the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, Inc. is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) conservation organization that emphasizes and supports the work of its chapters to create and manage upland habitat at the local level. For more information or to join QUWF, visit the organization&rsquo;s website at www.quwf.net.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish &amp; Wildlife Foundation, the state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Quail Coalition and Southern Company. For more information, please visit this link 

Virginia’s Duncan New NBCI Mgt. Board Chair

Bob Duncan, executive director of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, is the new chairman of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s Management Board.Bob Duncan

Duncan replaces Dr. Jon Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, who recently resigned to accept a position with the Wildlife Management Institute. The NBCI board is comprised of the commissioner/director of each of the 25 state wildlife agencies in the NBCI region, or their designees. Meeting twice a year, their role is to provide high-level policy guidance to the national effort to restore wild bobwhites.

Duncan, a Radford, Virginia, native who has spent 36 of his 40-year wildlife career with the department, served as chief of wildlife for 18 of those years after initial stints in both Kansas and Tennessee. A certified wildlife biologist, he has served as president of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and as president of the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society. The Virginia chapter of The Nature Conservancy recently honored Duncan with its Conservation Leadership and Partnership Award, and the Virginia Chapter of Ducks Unlimited named him Conservationist of the Year in July.

“The NBCI is providing critical national leadership and coordination for restoring wild bobwhites, a high conservation priority for Virginia and many other states,” said Duncan. “I’m excited and pleased for this opportunity to chair the NBCI Management Board that supports and helps guide this important state initiative, and work with the superb NBCI staff as we continue accelerating the pace of restoration.”

“While we are certainly sad to lose Jon Gassett’s leadership on our board,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie, “Bob Duncan is a very respected, highly visible and influential figure in American wildlife management. He’s been very vocal about the importance of coordinated state efforts through the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative to restore wild bobwhites and we look forward to working closely with him in his new role.”

TX Quail Group Supports NBCI Ag Policy Efforts with $75,000 Grant

Texas Quail Group Supports NBCI Ag Policy Efforts with $75,000 Grant

The Dallas-based, non-profit Park Cities Quail (PCQ) organization has awarded the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) $75,000 to support its efforts to educate federal agriculture policymakers in the nation’s capital regarding farm policy impacts on bobwhite quail and other wildlife species.

“The PCQ assistance is critical,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “The way federal agriculture policy is made and implemented using our tax dollars may be the single most powerful influence on wildlife and wildlife habitat on private lands across America,” McKenzie said. “That policy can be a negative influence or it can be a positive influence. To date, unfortunately, it’s been more of the former for bobwhite quail and a long list of songbirds, pollinators and other wildlife species.

“Park Cities Quail’s support will help us continue our efforts in Washington on behalf of bobwhites, while we seek the additional support required to remain engaged long-term with USDA in, for instance, incorporating common sense changes such as drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly native grasses in their policies. That could be the single biggest positive step for quail and other wildlife species in decades.”

The NBCI grant was one of 10 totaling $770,000 PCQ awarded to various efforts on bobwhites’ behalf. The funds were raised at the organization’s annual dinner and auction in March in Dallas, which draws 1,000 sportsmen annually. For more information on PCQ and other grants, please visit http://goo.gl/ioYTrX .

UT to Continue as NBCI Headquarters

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) will call the University of Tennessee its institutional home and national operations center for another five years.

UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) and NBCI representatives recently inked the new deal as the expiration of the original 2008 agreement neared. Embedded in UTIA’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative by 25 state wildlife agencies in the core bobwhite range and a number of research institutions and private conservation groups to restore populations of wild bobwhites. Funded primarily by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Southern Company, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and the 25 states, NBCI’s staff of five specializes in forest management, agriculture policy, research and communications at a regional and national level.

“We concentrate of activities that individual states or other entities can’t do, or do effectively, alone and individually to restore this game bird,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “And UT, the Institute and the Department of Forestry, Wildlife & and Fisheries have all been very supportive of our efforts to restore wild bobwhites to the landscape. We’re extremely pleased that UT will be our home and we will be UT employees for at least another five years.”

The feeling is mutual, according to department head Dr. Keith Belli. “The department and the Institute, are very proud to continue our role as host organization for NBCI.  We are committed to supporting efforts to bring back populations of bobwhites and associated grassland wildlife.”

For more information about NBCI, visit our website at www.bringbackbobwhites.org, on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bringbackbobwhites, and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/BringBackBobwhites   

For more information about UTIA and the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, visit https://ag.tennessee.edu/Pages/default.aspx and http://fwf.ag.utk.edu/ respectively.

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company.

Latest Quail Research Available in New Volume

The latest in peer-reviewed quail research is now available in a 386-page volume, Quail VII: Proceedings of the Seventh National Quail Symposium. Cover of the Proceedings of the 7th National Quail Symposium

Quail VII content is diverse, containing over 80 papers and abstracts—with 27 state and federal agencies, universities and institutes reporting on their work at the Seventh National Quail Symposium in Tucson, Arizona January 9-12, 2012. Geographically, the findings have implications for an area(s) bounded Oregon, Nebraska, New Jersey, and south to Florida and Brazil.

Quail VII covers a multitude of topics, including translocation of mountain quail and northern bobwhite, phylogeography of scaled quail and bobwhites (northern bobwhite, Yucatán bobwhite, spot-bellied bobwhite and crested bobwhite), hybridization of Gambel’s and California quail, Mearns’ (Montezuma) quail, nutrition, arthropods, exotic grasses, the Conservation Reserve Program, predation, parasites, eyeworms, survival, reproduction, thermoregulation, harvest prescriptions, climate change, economics, conservation planning, attitudes of private landowners, etc.

The research also covers a pervasive theme of quail management, pen-reared bobwhites. Two papers describe the actual efficacy of the Surrogator® system, and another describes a groundbreaking advancement, use of prenatal and post-hatch imprinting to improve survival of genetically wild pen-reared bobwhites.

Quail VII has the latest research and management on the endangered masked bobwhite.  The masked bobwhite is even closer to extinction than other gallinaceous birds recently in the news, the Gunnison sage grouse and lesser prairie-chicken.  Quail VII includes one of the most comprehensive reviews of masked bobwhite habitat and populations to date by species expert David E. Brown, plus the latest on natural and artificial restoration efforts in the USA and Mexico, and a review of effects of invasive grasses on masked bobwhite.

Quail VII also includes executive summaries of both the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative 2.0 (NBCI 2.0) and The Western Quail Plan, ensuring a permanent published record of these ground-breaking initiatives.

The Quail VII volume was made possible by contributions by Arizona Game and Fish Department, National Wild Turkey Federation, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, Texas Tech Quail Tech Alliance and Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. 

Copies are available for $40 at  https://bringbackbobwhites.org/donate-2/online-store.


Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state fish and wildlife agencies as well as academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org

Row Crop Field Buffers Show Dramatic Increase in Bobwhite Potential in Most Regions

A conservation practice introduced in agricultural row crop settings in 2004 by USDA at the behest of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has resulted in bobwhite populations up to three times greater than those found in traditionally managed crop fields, according to a just-released study of the program’s impacts.

Led by Mississippi State University, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, the study concluded that Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, referred to as Conservation Practice 33 (CP33), added an average of 1.52 bobwhites to the fall population population for every acre of native grassland (grasses, forbs and legumes) in buffers. At the current enrollment of 238,046 acres, the study estimates the practice has added about 30,000 coveys to the landscape, each year. If program participation rose to the current cap of 500,000 acres there would be an estimated 63,000 coveys added. At an average of 12 quail per covey, that’s about three-quarters of a million more quail in the fall.

“This study clearly demonstrates what NBCI has said all along: that is, that substantial, measurable wildlife benefits can be achieved through strategically implemented conservation practices on working agricultural lands where much of the potential quail habitat exists,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Furthermore, it shows how a relatively small change in primary land use – 5 percent — at little or no cost to landowners can have a disproportionately positive impact on bobwhite populations in some regions.  CP33 is a win for everyone. It allows the retirement of less productive field margins, often with net financial gains through the incentives, while providing environmental benefits like clean water and habitat for pollinators, quail and other grassland birds. NBCI urges a more comprehensive application of this efficient practice as a commonsense approach for government, for farms and for wildlife.”

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) implemented the Habitat for Upland Birds practice as part of their Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) in 2004, initially allocating 250,000 acres in 35 states for 10 years of active management. Essentially, CP33 offers landowners incentives for establishing 30 to 120-foot-wide buffers of diverse native grasses and forbs along the edges of crop fields to provide habitat for bobwhites and other grassland birds. FSA also charged what is now the National Bobwhite Technical Committee with devising a monitoring protocol to measure the response of bobwhites and targeted songbird species. CP33 was the first USDA conservation reserve practice designed specifically to help meet recovery objectives of a large-scale conservation initiative, as well as the first and only USDA practice for which USDA requires monitoring to actually measure conservation impacts.

State fish and wildlife agencies, private conservation organizations and universities in 14 states collaborated with Dr. Wes Burger at Mississippi State University to monitor differences in bobwhite and upland songbird densities and buffer vegetation characteristics on nearly 600 buffered fields and an equal number of “non-buffered” fields from 2006-2011..

Among the report findings:

  • Researchers observed 50-110% greater fall bobwhite covey densities on CP33 fields across all states
    Map of Study Area BCRs
  • CP 33 works especially well in some regions, most notably  in the Southeastern Coastal Plain (Bird Conservation Region 27) where covey densities were three times greater, and in the Central Hardwoods (Bird Conservation Region 24) and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (Bird Conservation Region 26), where covey densities were two times greater
  • Priority songbirds that share habitat with bobwhites, such as dickcissels and field sparrows, also benefitted from CP33 buffers
  • Required management activities designed to maintain habitat quality for bobwhites were implemented on less than half of the enrolled acres, presenting an opportunity for program improvement
  • Kansas and Oklahoma state wildlife departments conducted separate, but related, evaluations of CP33 for bobwhites and ring-necked pheasants, and found both species were more abundant with grass buffered crop fields compared to field lacking buffers
  • To have maximum impact, the buffered fields need to be strategically concentrated in relation to one another rather than stranded in isolated pockets across the landscape

Project Manager Dr. Kristine Evans identified another important outcome of thie study. “CP33 monitoring exemplifies that large-scale coordinated monitoring across multiple agencies/organizations is entirely possible and can be very successful in measuring programmatic outcomes given appropriate funding mechanisms and monitoring infrastructure.”

For more details about the technical aspects of the monitoring and the results, the full final report is available at https://bringbackbobwhites.org/strategy/nbci-2-0/doc_details/166-conservation-reserve-program-cp33-final-report-2006-2011

The national CP33 monitoring program was funded by the Multistate Conservation Grant Program (MSCG; Grants MS M-1-T and MS-M-2-R), a program supported with funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and jointly managed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Additional support was provided by Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center, USDA-Farm Service Agency, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service- Conservation Effects Assessment Project. 

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is a project of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of state fish and wildlife agencies, academic research institutions and non-governmental conservation organizations. NBCI is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, two dozen state wildlife management agencies, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Southern Company.