Decline of the Northern Bobwhite and the Scaled Quail

Our work in Texas is driven by population declines of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata). These decades-long declines reached broad awareness in 2008, when decreasing quail populations became apparent despite periods of favorable weather. Changes to Texas landscapes could help reverse declines by improving quail habitat and minimizing threats from parasites, disease, predation, and invasive species. Quail are the third-most hunted game animal in Texas, making them a major source of revenue in rural counties. In addition to their economic importance, they play vital ecological and cultural roles across the state. To learn more, visit our story map, "Habitat Requirements of Texas Quails," by clicking here.

This joint effort by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M NRI seeks to understand and address the critical decline of quail in Texas. Our researchers investigate potential causes of the decline, and solutions through sound science. We teach landscape improvements to restore healthy quail populations. Our programs improve habitat management efforts on public and private lands, foster support for quail conservation in Texas, and maintain the benefits of quail hunting across the state.

The Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative Sourcebook

This Sourcebook describes the accomplishments of the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative over its 6-year tenure and gathers together key resources for those interested in Texas quail ecology and habitat management. In it, you will find descriptions of major programs, articles and videos, research summaries, and more. If you are viewing the book in a digital format, direct links to these resources will be provided whenever possible. Although RQDI has drawn to a close, our hope with this sourcebook is to ensure that those efforts continue to have positive impacts in quail conservation and management for years to come.

Texas Quail Index

This statewide initiative uses data provided by Texans to measure quail abundance across the state. The TQI’s mission includes educating landowners and surrounding communities about monitoring and managing quail on their properties. Our demonstration series from April through September gives cooperators the tools they need to observe annual changes in quail densities, gauge predator activity, and evaluate habitat quality. These exercises help Texans understand quail populations and natural resources on their own properties.

Quail Appreciation Days

We cover the basics of quail anatomy, ecology, and habitat management in this one-day program. Quail Appreciation Days include a series of hands-on activities, informative video, and live lessons by quail experts. The events give participants a general background for becoming students of quail.


QuailMasters is one of the most intensive courses on quail management offered anywhere. Participants access private ranches — featuring some of the state’s premier quail habitat — where they work through four hands-on training sessions. The training focuses on the three key areas of quail management: habitat, population, and people. Attendance at three of the four sessions is required to complete the course and become a "QuailMaster."

Statewide Quail Symposium

This biennial conference brings together Texas experts in quail conservation and management. Attendees include state agency personnel, research scientists, landowners, and managers to share expertise and address issues threatening quail. Past topics have included the effects of invasive species on quail; best management practices for quail habitat; and emerging research on parasites and disease. A field day kicks off the conference to give attendees a firsthand look at quail habitat management in action.


General lectures and other education events last from 1-3 hours and focus on a specific topic related to quail. Examples include a quail’s role in the food web, proposed causes of the quail decline, habitat management techniques, quail life history and reproduction, and the impact of predation on quail populations.



Jim Cathey

Dr. Jim Cathey is an associate director for the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute. Jim is a regional and national expert in wildlife management, Extension outreach and programming, feral hog management and conservatio…


    Quail are Calling

    The quail are calling, and we've got our fingers crossed for a great breeding season this year. The Texas Quail Index is starting with Spring Call Counts, and now you can participate (or just learn what it's all about) by taking our online vignette. We also highlight an upcoming webinar for landowners with small-acreage properties and wildlife management goals.

    April Reversing the Quail Decline Newsletter

    A lot can change in a month. As we adjust to new ways of working, socializing, and just plain living, we want to encourage you to persevere. We know our Students of Quail are a resourceful bunch, and we're all in this together! If you're looking for ways to stay busy and learn something new, we have an opportunity for you: help us refine the new TQI Online Course!

    Open the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative February Newsletter

    February—Disking, shredding, prescribed (Rx) burning—'tis the season for habitat disturbance. Disturbance can open up the landscape and allow for lower successional plant species (like food-producing forbs) to take hold. Doing it now leaves enough time for recovery before nesting season is underway.

    If prescribed burning is something you're curious about but the thought of setting fire to your property makes you nervous, never fear—we have some resources to help you get started in this issue.

    Reversing the Quail Decline December Newsletter

    The end of the year is a time of celebration for many, but for quail it's often a time of hardship. This month we have an episode of Dr. Dale on Quail that explains why winter is such a tough time for these little birds. Plus we've got a new online lesson all about quail songs and calls.

    Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative October Newsletter

    The latest Dr. Dale on Quail podcast is here; you'll definitely want to give it a listen if you're planning on going quail hunting this season. We've also got an article about raptors, one of the top predators of quail, and some great news for the Texas Bobwhite Brigades.

    Spending the game bird stamp money

    Lone Star Outdoor News — Research, education at the forefront. Funds from the $7 Upland Game Bird Endorsement purchased with hunting licenses in Texas have been used to support research and education regarding bobwhite and scaled quail over the past six years.

    Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative May Newsletter

    April showers bring May flowers...and hopefully, plenty of great nesting habitat for quail! We recently celebrated Earth Day with our quail ambassadors, Kirby and Bonnie Blue, and we have a new article that goes into more detail about their role in the Quail Decline Initiative.


    April Quail Decline Newsletter: Spring Has Sprung

    Are you hearing that "poor, Bob-WHITE" whistle yet? While quail gear up for the breeding season, we've stayed busy with several programs and preparations for this year's Texas Quail Index.

    Reversing the Quail Decline: Busy as a Bird

    March Newsletter — Kirby and Bonnie got to stretch their wings at two events last month where they got to meet-and-great eager wildlife enthusiasts. If that's a descriptor that applies to you, then you'll also want to check out the article and videos below!

    New "Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative" Webpage

    We have a brand new web page for the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative on the Dallas AgriLife Center website! Here you'll find an overview of the program, information on our native quail species and links to valuable resources.

    Bonnie or Beau? Blue's Gender Revealed!

    Happy hunting! Quail season started on October 27th, but be warned: Texas Quail Index data, as well as other sources, suggest there may be fewer birds this year. Look for a full write-up on the TQI in the next month.

    Read the Quail Decline Initiative October Newsletter!

    We hope you've been the beneficiary of some rain this past month! In addition to celebrating the cooler, wetter weather, we have several new QuailMasters to congratulate, a new article, and more webisodes on the horizon.

    Texas Master Naturalists connect on conservation of quail and other Texas wildlife

    The Texas Master Naturalist Meeting was a great opportunity to connect with people who are passionate about the conservation of quail and other Texas wildlife and to build awareness for upcoming events like Urban Quail Appreciation Day and Quail Masters 2018. Members had a chance to meet Kirby—some for the second time—and learn more about the assessment of fine-scale vegetation selection by northern bobwhite quail in Texas. 

    Urban Quail Appreciation Day slated Oct. 5 in San Antonio

    The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, San Antonio Quail Coalition and Witte Museum will present the first-ever Urban Quail Appreciation Day from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Memorial Auditorium of the Witte Museum, 3801 Broadway St., San Antonio.

      Blog Posts

      Quail Decline Initiative: A Fond Farewell

      This month, the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative draws to a close. We wrap things up by celebrating Mr. Kirby Quail's 6th birthday, highlighting some new resources and a license plate you'll want to take a look at, and putting the spotlight on two more quail organizations you may want to follow. Thank you for sticking with us, and for your passion for Texas quail!

      Quail are flying this November

      Leaves are falling, and quail are flying! This month, we're putting the spotlight on several organizations you'll want to follow to continue your quail education. We've also included the quail hunting forecast from TPWD and the newest Dr. Dale on Quail podcast, which you should give a listen to if you're planning to run dogs in rattlesnake country. 

      Quail Season Approaches

      It's October, which means quail hunting season will soon be here (starting on Halloween this year!). Until then, we've got some recommendations for quail research institutions you should follow, as well as a new live video series focusing on Aldo Leopold's wildlife habitat management tools.

      News from Reversing the Quail Decline

      The release of the Special Edition Quail Sourcebook is bittersweet as it marks the end of the RQDI grant and means that the program is drawing to a close.

      Forging Ahead

      COVID may have changed our summer plans, but we're forging ahead with new ways to deliver quail education. This month, you can practice your plant identification skills with a new PLS vignette, enjoy some online learning activities hosted by the Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade, and join us in congratulating Dr. Dale Rollins on achieving professor emeritus status!

      Things are heating up

      Summer is here, and there's plenty for quail enthusiasts to do! Texas Wildlife Association's annual convention normally takes place in San Antonio this month but has moved to an online format this year. There's also a new map resource we want to share, a vignette on wildlife tax valuation, and an upcoming virtual camp experience that young Students of Quail won't want to miss.

      Spotlight on Quail Predators: Bobcats

      Their stealth, acute hearing, and well-developed sense of smell combined with razor-sharp teeth and claws make bobcats excellent predators and this fact leads to the inevitable question for quail enthusiasts - how frequently do they predate quail?

      Texas Quail Index 2019 Summary

      We've collected, analyzed, and summarized the data, and now you get to see what we learned about quail in 2019. We had plenty of rain at the start of the breeding season, but did that translate to more birds?

      Approach to Bobwhite Habitat Management at RPQRR

      At the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, everything points to quail. Our primary goal is to maximize “usable space” for quail on the landscape 365 days of the year. There is an important distinction for the land manager to understand when discussing the improvement of habitat for maximization of usable space versus creating an “ideal” habitat.

      Introducing The Texas Quail Atlas

      Texas is home to four species of quail, and many Texans consider these birds to be iconic state species, fondly recalling hunting them, watching them, or just listening to their songs. Despite widespread interest in quail, their overall abundance has declined significantly over the past few decades. Recent research efforts, such as those funded by the Reversing the Decline of Quail in Texas Initiative, seek to determine what factors are contributing to the decline of quail in Texas.

      Celebrating Texas Quail at the Statewide Quail Symposium

      The much anticipated 2019 Statewide Quail Symposium kicked off with the August 14th field day located at the MT7 Ranch in Breckenridge, TX. More than 140 attendees joined a caravan of white pickup trucks to learn from habitat management experts at the MT7, including several members of the ranch’s management team, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI) professionals, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) representatives, and others...

      Reversing the Quail Decline at EarthX 2019

      Read about this year’s successful EarthX Dallas conference, held from April 26-28, with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and NRI’s Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative booth. 

      Texas Quail Index 2018 Summary

      The end of 2017 had quail enthusiasts across the state of Texas holding their breath. Years 2015 and 2016 had been remarkable for quail with record numbers of birds heard, seen and hunted, and the highest values yet recorded in the Texas Quail Index monitoring program. While 2017 wasn’t a bust by any means, we saw a leveling off of the meteoric rise in quail numbers in many parts of the state. High carryover from the preceding years ensured that there were still plenty of birds around at the start of hunting season, but it felt like our rollercoaster was nearing its apex and preparing to plummet down the other side.

      Why Don't Pen-raised Quail Survive in the Wild?

      While quail may be relatively easy to raise in captivity, research strongly indicates that these pen-raised birds are not well suited to survive long-term in the wild. Read more to find out why.

      Spotlight on Quail Predators: Coyotes and the Mesopredator Release Hypothesis

      Coyotes are widely assumed to be a major threat to quail populations, but are such accusations warranted? It is hard to deny that these canine predators will eat an adult quail or snack on a clutch of eggs if the opportunity presents itself, but they may not be the malevolent quail-eaters that many believe them to be. 

      The Rolling Plains Research Ranch by The Texas Wildlife Association

      The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is a 4,720-acre ranch in Fisher County, Texas that lies about 10 miles west of Roby off of US Highway 180. Speeding past on the highway the encyclopedia of knowledge that’s been garnered from the gently rolling hills is not obvious. Ultimately, the ranch’s aim is providing land managers and other stakeholders, with timely, relevant technology and management schemes for enhancing quail populations in the Rolling Plains of Texas. In doing so, the ranch hopes to sustain the “quail dynasty” that has supported hunters, ranchers, local economies, hunters and the quail themselves.

      Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation (RPQRF) Annual Report Released

      Hear from the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation leadership, including NRI's own Dr. Dale Rollins, speak on the first ten years in review, learn about habitat and population monitoring findings, mammal surveys and sustainability efforts, opportunities for engagement and much more!

      Texas Quail Index 2017 Summary

      This year’s Texas Quail Index (TQI) featured 26 cooperators representing 7 of the 10 Texas ecoregions. TQI participants are asked to conduct a series of demonstrations which include listening for whistling roosters in the spring, setting out “dummy” (i.e., simulated) nests and game cameras to evaluate predator activity, examining quail habitat, and counting birds along roads. Read more to see the statewide results summarized. 

      A Story Map: Habitat Requirements of Texas Quails

      A Texas Land Trends Story Map: Texas is home to four species of quails: Northern Bobwhite, Scaled Quail, Gambel’s Quail, and Montezuma Quail. Many Texans fondly recall experiences with quail, whether they were hunting or watching them, or just listening to their songs. Despite the interest in these quail species, their overall abundance, especially northern bobwhites, have declined over the past few decades. Recent research efforts seek to determine what factors have and continue to contribute to the decline of quail in Texas. 

      How Much Space Does a Quail Need?

      There is no doubt that quail are capable fliers when under pressure and strong, swift runners, but we rarely contemplate just how much distance they cover in a lifetime. When it comes to management of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), it is critical to consider the amount of space they need to maintain sustainable coveys (groups) and healthy populations. When answering the question of how much space a quail needs, you must consider covey sizes, how much terrain quail can cross, and both the amount and quality of habitat that is present in an area that quail occupy.

      Map of the Month: A Day in the Life of a Northern Bobwhite

      Many wildlife species have complex behaviors and utilize their habitat in ways we still do not fully understand. While the mysteries of the wild intrigue most any outdoors lover, they do pose challenges when it comes to the management of sensitive or declining species.

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