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The 50:50 Model for Bobwhites

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Posted Apr. 30, 1999

Most of us operate on the basis of mental models. We picture "in our mind's eye" the result that we want, and then we set out to create it. Whether it is planting the garden, training a pointer, culling the cow herd, or raising a child, our mental image of the finished product guides and motivates us.

An appropriate mental model for bobwhite habitat is often difficult to communicate to land managers. Discussion of percent cover types, interspersion, patchiness, edge, etc. often leave a blank look on the face of a manager. One concept I have found that seems to stick with managers is what I call the "50:50 model": a motte of brush 50 feet in diameter every 50 yards in every direction. This "model" is depicted in the figure.

Most biologists agree that 5-20% of quail range should be brush covered, and the 50:50 model results in 8.7% brush coverage. Managers who are also interested in cattle forage production should note that this would leave 91.3% of an area open, an effective compromise. Quail hunters should also enjoy this landscape.

As a review, woody plants provide several necessities for quail: safe havens from predators (avian, mammalian, and human), some protection from winter winds, rain, hail and snow, shade in the summer (very important) and some species even provide edible seeds or fruit. Woody cover is only one of the habitat requirements of quail, but it often limits quail abundance in our area.

I realize it is impractical to go out and "create" woody cover in this pattern. However, if you fix this pattern in your mind as a desired endpoint, decisions regarding brush management to benefit quail will be easier to make, and your quail habitat should improve over time. Let us know how we can help.