Habitat-Suitability Bounds for Nesting Cover of Northern Bobwhites on Semiarid Rangelands



ABSTRACT  Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is a species for which extensive knowledge exists regarding its ecology, life history, and habitat. Although the qualitative aspects of bobwhite habitat have been described and known for many decades, researchers have neglected to characterize bobwhite habitat quantitatively (i.e., habitat selection). Thus, biologists have been capable of identifying components that compose bobwhite habitat but have only been able to speculate on how much of each component was necessary. We documented selection-avoidance behavior of nesting bobwhites in Brooks County, Texas, USA, during May-August, 2004–2005. We measured 5 vegetation features (i.e., nesting-substrate ht and width, suitable nest clump density, herbaceous canopy coverage, and radius of complete visual obstruction) at nest sites (n = 105) and at random points (n = 204). We used continuous selection functions to assess habitat use and identify bounds of suitability. Selection domains for nesting-substrate height and radius of complete visual obstruction were 16.9–31.2 cm and 1.05-4.35 m, respectively. Across all measurements, bobwhites selected for nest sites with a nesting-substrate width ≥22.4 cm, suitable nest-clump density ≥730 nest clumps/ha, and herbaceous canopy coverage ≥36.7%. This knowledge will provide an important foundation for managers to evaluate current nesting conditions on semiarid rangelands and provide a basis for habitat management aimed at creating suitable nesting habitat for bobwhites.