Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bobwhite Memories

Written By: Skeeter and Marolyn Lasuzzo
Photography By: Skeeter Lasuzzo

The Northern bobwhite, a member of the New World Quail Family, is native to North America.  It is around 8.5 to 10.5 inches long, with a slight crest.  It's a small chunky bird which usually travels on foot and stays in a limited area.  

Beginning in late April and May, the male bobwhites begin setting up their "whistling territories."  This is when one can hear the familiar "bobwhite" call used by the males to attract females to the area.

Nesting activity usually lasts from early May through September.  Nests fall prey to many egg-eating predators as well as forest and farm management activities.  Climate factors such as drought, floods, and other natural causes determine quail populations.

The diet of the bobwhite varies per season, but consists of small acorns, mesquite beans, wild grapes, hackberries, insects and green plant material.

Bobwhite broods remain with their parents and, in early fall, are joined by unmated males and unsuccessful pairs to form large "coveys".  They remain in coveys from October to April.  A covey, which can number about 4-15 or more birds by early winter, will eventually roost and feed together.  The "covey circle" is the way quail roost.  They put their heads out, tails toward the center, resting against one another for warmth.  When frightened, the bobwhite will run from danger.  When the intruder gets too close, they will flush.  They fly rapidly, but then quickly drop back to the ground.  They will then begin a "gathering call" in an attempt to get the covey back together.

While bobwhites have been seen sporadically in Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, Marolyn and I have never seen or heard one in the 10 years we have been visiting the Refuge.  Imagine our surprise when we turned off of Refuge Road onto Wildlife Drive to see a bobwhite in the road.  It flushed and landed about 15 feet from the road in some very tall weeds.  I stopped the car and grabbed my camera and headed into the waist high weeds hoping to get an image.  My first step from the road into the weeds flushed another male quail.  After I gathered my senses, I was able to capture an image of the quail flying away.  I took two more steps and saw two or three more quail moving through the tall weeds.  At this point, we knew there were at least five quail in this covey.  I circled around and stood silent as to not disturb the quail.  Within a few minutes, the quail nearest me began to call to the others - an attempt to get the covey back together.  Slowly I moved closer to the calling bird.  I was able to get within two feet of the quail where I could see a female in the 4 feet high weeds.  I very slowly dropped to a knee, then slowly I began to move the grass and weeds that were between the quail and me in an attempt to get an unobstructed image.  I reached my hand within 10 inches of the female, without disturbing her, and captured the images included here.  I then very slowly replaced the weeds I had removed, backed away and went back to my car. 

Marolyn and I sat for a while listening to the calls between the quail.  It brought back some wonderful memories for me.  As a kid of 8 years old, my dad and I built a walk-in pen for the six female and two male bobwhite my dad had bought.  We separated the males from the females which encouraged them to sing out their "bobwhite call".  Little did I know at the time that this would be the beginning of a long relationship with bobwhites.  Until I left home after college, the "call of the bobwhite" was my alarm clock.

Ed. Note;  Many thanks to the Lasuzzos for their regular contributions to the Friends of Hagerman Blog, sharing their times on the Refuge.

No comments:

Post a Comment