By David Graves, AGFC Private Lands Biologist
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) –
The northern bobwhite is the native quail species found throughout
Arkansas. These predominantly ground-dwelling birds are primarily found
in areas that contain large amounts of edge habitat. Edges are
boundaries between different habitat types or land use practices.
range of a quail covey can cover as little as 20 acres up to 160 acres.
In that home range, quail require various types of habitat, including:
escape cover, nesting habitat, brood rearing habitat and feeding and
So, what is a
"covey headquarters" and how does it fit into the equation for great
quail habitat? Covey headquarters are patches of escape cover with
dense, shrubby canopy cover and little ground-level vegetation.
Headquarters are used by quail on a daily basis to provide protection
against severe weather and predators along with resting and loafing
percentage of the landscape designated as covey headquarters can range
up to 20 percent of the total area, with the remainder set aside for the
other habitat components needed by quail. Covey headquarters should be
provided in clusters of not less than 30 feet by 50 feet blocks of
shrubs that are not more than 150 feet apart, which will allow the quail
to have quick access to their escape cover if the need arises.
serve well for this habitat component include: wild American and
Chickasaw plum, fragrant and smooth sumac, rough-leaved dogwood,
deciduous holly, cockspur hawthorn and American beautyberry. Plum
thickets are an excellent example of quail convey headquarters and occur
naturally on many properties across Arkansas.
and manage any existing plum or other shrubby thickets on your
property. These shrubby thickets can be improved to better benefit
quail. If invasive grass species take over the ground-level cover,
those grasses should be treated with a herbicide, timing depending on
whether they are warm season or cool season. This will re-open that
ground-level cover making it easier for quail to move throughout the
headquarters. Also, any over-hanging or adjacent trees to the plum
thicket should be removed from the area. This strategy will help reduce
predation from overhead predators and also provide a clear flight path
for quail to escape from ground predators.
thickets do not occur naturally on your land, they can be established
by planting seeds, seedlings or container-grown shrubs. For
beautyberry, dogwood and sumac, spacing should be on a 3 foot by 6 foot
spacing. Other shrubs can be planted on a 5 foot by 8 foot spacing.
Just remember, thickets intended for use as covey headquarters should be
established in edge habitat, those areas of transition between habitat
types and in open fields lacking shrubby cover. After you have
identified the best location for your headquarters, the existing
vegetation should be controlled using an herbicide before you plant the
shrubs. This will promote the growth of your new plantings as well as
open the ground-level cover to facilitate quail movement throughout the
you have existing or newly planted covey headquarters, you should avoid
damaging these when conducting other habitat management practices on
your property, i.e. prescribed burning or disking. Herbicides can be
used to control invasive grasses within and around your thickets;
however care should be used to avoid spraying shrubs. Also, livestock
should be excluded from these areas to maintain the integrity of the
thicket as a quail covey headquarters.
information on establishing quail headquarters and improving your land
for quail and other wildlife, contact an AGFC Private Lands Biologist
at: Fort Smith-877-478-1043, Harrison-870-741-8600-extension 114,
Hope-877-777-5580, Calico Rock-877-297-4331, Mayflower-877-470-3650,
Brinkley-877-734-4581, Jonesboro-877-972-5438, and