The University of Arizona

Research observation: Effects of rangeland ecological condition on scaled quail sightings.

J. Joseph, J.L. Holechek, R. Valdez, M. Collins, M. Thomas


Scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) numbers were evaluated during and after a 2-year drought period using strip census techniques on 2 pastures in late seral rangeland ecological condition and 2 pastures in mid-seral rangeland ecological condtion. This study was conducted on the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (CDRRC) in south-central New Mexico on 4 adjoining pastures that were similar in size and terrain. During part of the study (August 1994 to April 1997) all 4 pastures were destocked due to depletion of perennial grass cover and biomass from a combination of drought and heavy cattle grazing. Scaled quail sightings pooled across sampling periods (9) were different (P = 0.08) on high and low rangeland ecological condition treatments. They averaged 10.72 birds per pasture on late-seral and 4.22 birds per pasture on mid-seral rangeland ecological condition treatments. Autumn perennial grass cover and standing biomass levels was higher (P < 0.10) on late seral than on mid-seral rangeland ecological condition pastures during both years of study. Availability of scaled quail foods such as leatherweed croton and broom snakeweed did not differ (P > 0.10) between treatments. Our study indicates that during extended dry periods livestock grazing at moderate intensities may adversely affect scaled quail populations in the Chihuahuan Desert by depleting perennial grass cover. However, in years of above average precipitation there is evidence scaled quail prefer mid-seral pastures over late-seral pastures. Maintaining a mosaic of conservatively (late-seral) and moderately (mid-seral) grazed pastures should best meet the habitat needs of scaled quail in the Chihuahuan Desert.



Callipepla;population size;Callipepla squamata;game birds;seral stages;vegetation cover;wildlife habitats;arid lands;ecological succession;pastures;grazing intensity;biomass;drought;plant litter;New Mexico

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