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Keywords:

  • bobwhite;
  • Colinus virginianus;
  • drought;
  • nesting habitat;
  • nest predation;
  • population;
  • predator control;
  • simulation;
  • south Texas;
  • stochastic modeling

Abstract

Nest predation is thought to be one of the major factors limiting northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) populations. We examined the relative impact of altering nest-predation rate, nesting habitat, and weather (i.e., temp and precipitation) on northern bobwhite population dynamics in a hypothetical 15,000-ha subtropical-rangeland ecosystem in south Texas using a simulation model. The systems model consisted of a 3-stage (i.e., eggs, juv, and ad) bobwhite population with dynamics influenced by variables affecting production, recruitment, nest predation, and mortality. We based model parameters on data collected from a 3-yr nest-predator study employing infrared-camera technology, from ongoing field research using a radio-marked population of wild bobwhites, and from the literature. The baseline simulated bobwhite population dynamics corresponded closely to empirical data, with no difference between medians of simulated (n = 30 yr) and observed bobwhite age ratios over a 28-yr period. Similarly, a time-series comparison of simulated and observed age ratios showed most (89%) observed values fell within the 5th and 95th percentiles of the simulated data over the 28-yr period. We created simulated population scenarios representing 1) baseline historical conditions, 2) predator control, 3) low precipitation, 4) low precipitation with predator control, 5) high temperature, 6) high temperature with predator control, 7) reduced nest-clump availability, and 8) reduced nest-clump availability with predator control that resulted in considerably different median bobwhite densities over 10 yr. For example, under simulated predator control, populations increased by about 55% from the baseline scenario, whereas under simulated reduced nest-clump availability, populations decreased by about 75% from the baseline scenario. Comparisons of time-series for each scenario showed that reduced nest-clump availability, low precipitation, and high temperature reduced bobwhite densities to a larger degree compared to a natural nest predation rate. Reduced nest-clump availability resulted in the most substantial decline of simulated bobwhite densities. Simulations suggested that management efforts should focus on maintaining adequate nest-clump availability and then possibly consider nest predator control as a secondary priority. © 2010 The Wildlife Society