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Home range and habitat selection of northern bobwhite coveys in an agricultural landscape

Authors

  • Adam K. Janke,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43202, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Northern Plains Biostress Laboratory 138, Box 2140B, Brookings, SD 57007, USA.
    • School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43202, USA
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  • Robert J. Gates

    1. School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43202, USA
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  • Associate Editor: William Kuvlesky

Abstract

Northern bobwhites thrive in fine-grained landscapes with a diversity of early succession woodland, grassland, and agriculture-associated habitat types. Bobwhite conservation has proved challenging in the increasingly coarse-grained Midwestern landscape as simplified agricultural cropping systems are implemented at larger spatial scales. Regardless, managing agricultural landscapes on private lands is the primary opportunity to restore bobwhite populations in the Midwestern United States. Although bobwhite habitat requirements are well understood, habitat selection in contemporary Midwestern landscapes is not well understood, especially on private lands where populations are declining. We used compositional analysis to investigate second- (study area) and third- (home range) order habitat selection by radiomarked bobwhite coveys on 4 private land study areas in southwestern Ohio. Mean covey home range size was 26.1 ± 2.2 ha (n = 48). Although home ranges were established in areas with more grassland cover, bobwhites most strongly selected early succession woody habitat (e.g., fencerows and ditches) at all scales, and selection for grassland diminished between the study area and home range scales. Grassland selection varied among sites and was strongest on sites with more row crop area. Woodlots were avoided at the study area scale, but were selected within home ranges. Grassland cover, like that provided by contemporary conservation programs, is an essential component of bobwhite habitat in the Midwest, but our results suggest more emphasis should be placed on early succession woody cover. Woody cover associated with fencerows, ditches, and woodlots adjacent to food sources and breeding habitat will likely improve non-breeding season survival, which is an influential vital rate in northern populations. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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