Bobwhite Quail are one of the most endearing of all wild birds. Who hasn't heard the distinct call of the male (bob-white bob-white) as he seeks a mate or a covey to join. A few years back we had a female who came into our yard to eat the cracked corn I threw out for the doves. She stayed around for a week or so then we didn't see her again. Once in awhile we are fortunate enough to find a small covey of these lovely birds on our farm. We hear them each spring and summer calling from the back fields and it always makes me smile, they just sound so endearing.
This year the numbers of these birds were down. Most people in the area are blaming our extremely wet year. The early spring floods destroyed nests. Those that managed to survive, had to fight wet conditions and many did not make it. The ever persistent birds tried again for a second clutch, only to have those hit hard by late summer rains and more flooding. The ones pictured here were photographed near Happy Holler Conservation Area in a corn field. They were scratching around through the snow to reveal the ground beneath and were busy dining on the corn they uncovered. This covey held nine birds, each as beautiful as the next. I felt very fortunate to have seen them and to be able to capture a picture, These birds normally stay close to the timber lines when the weather is as ferocious as it has been. It pleased me to a great degree to know that they were making it through these difficult times. It is estimated that as much as 80% of the quail population will die over the winter months. Lack of food and shelter being the primary culprits. Harsh temperatures are hard on them as well. These birds face many difficulties besides the weather. Turkey populations have grown to such a huge number in Missouri that they have all but destroyed natural quail habitat. They compete for seeds, berries and other tidbits. Many landowners have allowed their property to become overgrown. This lack of management creates ideal habitats for Turkey, but lousy habitat for quail. There are many good government funded programs out there to aid landowners in creating better habitats for these great little birds. Our family works diligently to encourage these birds and to provide proper areas for them to feed, nest and to hide. It would be a sad state of affairs should these birds reach low enough numbers to warrant state or federal protection. Quails Unlimited, as well as our very own Missouri Department of Conservation are working hard in conjunction with farmers and landowners to create working relationships that not only benefit the quail, but the landowners as well.