Texas Tech Researchers Publish Paper on Recent Significant Decline in Wild Bobwhite Quail in West Texas

The Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory published in Rangeland Ecology and Management

Lubbock, TX — The Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory (WTL) at Texas Tech University has published a scientific paper entitled, “Monitoring Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) Populations in the Rolling Plains of Texas: Parasitic Infection Implications” which has been published online inRangeland Ecology and Management.

“The Rolling Plains of West Texas is considered by many to be one of the last important strongholds for huntable and sustainable wild northern bobwhite quail populations,” states Dr. Ronald Kendall, head of the Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory. “This paper, which represents thousands of hours of field work conducted by the WTL, reveals a very rapid decline of wild northern bobwhite populations in the region.”

The bobwhite was previously found throughout the southeastern United States and has been reduced, if not eliminated, from more than 90% of their original range in America. Over the last 50 years, a continual decline of bobwhite has been seen; however, it is still a very culturally and economically significant game species in Texas. The work by the WTL in the Rolling Plains becomes particularly important when considering the history of this iconic gamebird species and the concerning significant decline in its last great stronghold.

Following the major decline of bobwhite populations in 2010, extensive research was conducted to investigate the possible causes, which revealed parasites as a potential contributor. Since then, the bobwhite populations in the Rolling Plains of West Texas reached an all-time high for the 2016-2017 hunting season but was followed by a precipitous drop in abundance within just two years. This decline in the Rolling Plains began in late winter 2017 into the early spring of 2018 and resulted in substantially depressed bobwhite populations, with up to a 90% reduction on many ranches throughout West Texas.

The WTL’s argument for “parasitic infection implications” is laid out in “Monitoring Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) Populations in the Rolling Plains of Texas: Parasitic Infection Implications.” In this, the WTL describes trapping effort, count surveys, and parasite data that led the WTL to predict a depressed bobwhite hunting season for fall/winter 2018 due to the loss of “breeding capital” before even going into the 2018 breeding season. These predictions were accurate, and the abundance of bobwhite was at the third lowest ever recorded for the Rolling Plains in 2018.

More about the research, funded by Park Cities Quail Coalition and Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation, can be found at www.wildlifetoxicologylab.org. Visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550742419300272 for the full paper.