Natural Resources Institute Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative
The Dallas Center serves as a regional office for the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative. This joint effort by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 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.
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.
Visit the Dallas center events calendar for the latest quail exhibitions and other Texas A&M AgriLife happenings in your area.
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 the image or clicking here.
The northern bobwhite can be found in the eastern two thirds of Texas, making it the most widespread and common of the four Texas quail species. Bobwhites get their name from a distinctive whistling call, “poor Bob-WHITE,” produced by roosters during the breeding season from late April through August. Their color pattern is primarily brown, black and white. Males have white markings on their heads and throats, while the same markings on females are light brown; both have cryptic brown patterning along their backs and wings. Bobwhite habitat includes native bunch grasses, forbs and woody shrubs arranged in a patchwork fashion throughout their environment.
The scaled, or blue quail, is the second most common Texas quail species. It inhabits most of the western half of the state. Their coloration is primarily gray with a bluish, scale-like pattern on their bellies. Each sex has a distinctive head crest with a white tip, earning them the additional nickname “cotton-top quail.” Scaled quail habitat tends to be less dense than bobwhite habitat, with more open ground, and sparser food and cover. Hardy, drought-tolerant plant species comprise the bulk of scaled quail habitat. Like bobwhites, scaled quail can be hunted in Texas, though their inclination to run rather than flush makes them a challenging target.
Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii) are found in the Trans Pecos ecoregion of far west Texas. They are easily distinguished from other Texas quail species by a “top knot” that protrudes from the forehead of both males and females. Their markings also include a rusty-red crown and striped patterning on the flanks, as well as a large black spot on the lower belly. Preferred habitat for Gambel’s quail is open ground with dense, woody canopy cover and sparse herbaceous plants. Those might include desert scrublands, semi-arid grasslands, chaparral, and riparian areas, among others. The range of Gambel’s quail is limited in Texas, but they become increasingly common farther west in New Mexico and Arizona.
Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) is the rarest and most secretive of the 4 Texas quail species. Found almost exclusively in the Davis Mountains area, they are the only quail species that cannot be legally hunted in Texas. Coloration on the males is unmistakable, featuring a striking black and white facial pattern, a bluish beak, and spotting along the flanks and breast. Females are a more uniform brownish gray. Their body shape is similar to other quail species but features an unusually round head and large feet. Montezuma quail prefer rockier terrain than other Texas quails, and they rely on bunch grasses and forbs for cover. Tubers are an important food source for Montezuma quail, which they dig with their large feet and talons.
TAMU Quail Decline Initiative Facebook Page—regular posts featuring articles, events, photos, informational videos and information on quail conservation and outreach.
Texas A&M NRI Twitter Page — updates on the Quail Decline Initiative and other NRI programs.
Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute YouTube Channel—video library featuring a quail playlist with over 60 educational videos.
Wild Wonderings—blog with articles on wildlife and habitat management topics.
Other Quail Resources
Texas Wildlife Association’s Wildlife for Lunch webinars—video series in which experts speak on various wildlife topics.
AgriLife Bookstore—published materials on quail and other topics, many available as free digital downloads
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Quail Forecast—survey data on bobwhite and scaled quail in different Texas ecoregions
NBCI Bobwhite Library—collection of essential reference materials for bobwhite quail
USDA Plants—database containing identification tips and information on thousands of plant species, searchable by common or scientific name