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UGA Faculty to Quell Quail Declines

by Kate Spear



Georgia’s state game-bird population is in trouble, and not because of quail season.

“The Southern landscape is now unfriendly to the northern bobwhite,” said John Carroll, University of Georgia professor of wildlife ecology and management.

According to Carroll, the birds have experienced dramatic population declines in Georgia in recent decades, as much of their previous natural habitat has become high-technology, intensely managed commercial forests and agricultural fields.

Thus, said Carroll, “we must tweak this landscape to find ways to reintegrate the species.”

Northern bobwhite quail are an early-successional species, meaning that they are often the first animals to “give way” to other, possibly non-native species. Carroll calls the birds “flagships for conservation” because they are clear indicators of changes in the grass and farmland ecosystems that are critical both to natural preservation and the state economy.

To correct these changes, Carroll’s team plans to work with public and private landowners to establish land-use management practices conducive to expanding quail populations. Changing the way people farm and using more vegetative cover in certain areas of open land can improve the habitat by providing the food and protection necessary for quail survival.

Faculty at UGA’s Warnell School of Forest Resources will conduct much of the research and monitoring that these efforts require.

The school is one of 11 organizations that will collaborate to restore habitat and populations of the northern bobwhite quail, and Carroll will head the formulation of the 20- to 30-year recovery. The group hopes to enhance more than 4 million acres of northern bobwhite habitat in Georgia and restore the statewide quail population to 227,000 coveys (pairs of mature birds and their young).

This program is part of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, a four-year-old effort of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to restore quail populations in 22 states.

For more information contact John Carroll at or access


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