- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Timely rainfall and milder temperatures this spring have raised prospects for a rebound of bobwhite quail in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has been contacted by landowners across the state indicating they have been hearing the quails’ characteristic “bobwhite” whistle more frequently this spring than in past years. The agency says that’s an indication that more birds are on the ground and are looking to nest.

“We’re seeing better conditions now than we’ve seen in the past two and a half years,” said upland game biologist Scott Cox.

In mid-June 2013, researchers who were tracking birds in northwestern Oklahoma had not recorded any birds nesting, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1sx5AL5 ). This year, the department says residents of western Oklahoma reported seeing quail chicks in mid-May.

In the past 60 days, most areas of Oklahoma have received more than 6 inches of rain, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. The state’s southeast region has recorded close to 12 inches since mid-April, and the parched western regions have seen between 5 inches and 8 inches in many areas.

The rainfall has created good growing conditions for ground-cover plants, which quail use as nesting habitat.

“Due to lower cattle numbers, nesting habitat ought to be really good this year,” Cox said. “Up to now, we’re about as good as it gets as far as nesting and forbs production in most parts of the state. The Panhandle is still behind in isolated areas, but it’s looking better than in the past few years.”

Cox conservatively estimated Oklahoma’s quail population at 750,000 to 1 million birds. In peak population years in the 1990s, the state’s quail population was probably close to 7 million, he said. In years with favorable conditions, quail have been known to nest as many as three times in one season.

Research has shown that quail mortality is generally about 80 percent each year. Since the bobwhite quail has an average lifespan of only seven to 10 months, Cox said hunting does not affect the overall population of the species.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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