Northern Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus
Bobhite pair - profile

Studies of relationships between bobwhite populations and applications of prescribed fire for their habitat management became a cornerstone of fire ecology research in the United States (Stoddard 1931, Leopold 1933). 

This species has a high annual mortality rate, and hence rapid population turnover and a short life span. Its robust reproductive capability can compensate for these factors, however, when weather and habitat conditions permit, an adult pair can successfully produce 2 or more broods (≥25 offspring) during a single breeding season. In forest habitats this bird shows a clear preference for early successional vegetation created by disturbances from fire, agriculture, and timber-harvesting.  

Because bobwhites are hunted extensively, they are one of the most intensively studied species of birds in the world (Guthery 1997). The widespread geographic distribution of this species (22 recognized subspecies) makes it an ideal subject for comparing how varying climatic and habitat factors influence distribution and abundance, especially in relation to disturbance from agriculture (Roseberry and Klimstra 1984), grazing (Guthery 1996), and fire (Stoddard 1931). Recent studies using telemetry have shown that this bird is not monogamous, but rather has a complex repertoire of breeding strategies (Curtis et al. 1993, Burger et al. 1995b). Interactions among factors such as hunting, predation, and weather have yet to be quantified and modeled in a systematic manner that unifies our understanding of the demography and habitat ecology of this species, although efforts at modeling such factors appear promising (Guthery 1997). For the future, studies of brood survival, habitat fragmentation, sociobiology, predation, and factors responsible for population regulation and decline should provide new insights into the biology of this well-studied bird.  


Brennan, Leonard A. 1999. Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: 

Facts About Northern Bobwhite

There are 22 recognized subspecies of quail. 

Northern Bobwhites were thought to be monogamous until researchers began radio-tracking individuals to follow their activities. It turns out that both male and female bobwhites can have multiple mates in one season.
Under good conditions, a bobwhite pair can produce 2 or 3 broods, totaling 25 offspring or more, in a single breeding season.