Hello Stalkers! This is the thirty-ninth installment of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors! We appreciate your continued support in our mission to spread Mike Blair’s amazing work with a wider audience. It’s not just about income and profits, those are just to help Blair be able to continue his work through supplies, equipment and travel costs; the true goal is sharing the amazing sites of everyday nature with those who are stuck inside, lost in technology, or are just unable to experience it themselves. We believe Blair has a true talent and love seeing the informational videos he supplies and the amazing quality photographs of some of nature’s most private moments. So, we’d like to thank you for your continued support and encourage you to keep liking and sharing his work on our social media sites. The more we do this, the more people we are able to reach to spread this beautiful awareness of nature’s beauties.
Some of these moments and creatures that Blair has the innate talent of capturing are difficult to find and see. The Northern Bobwhite is no exception to this. It’s dappled plumage offers excellent camouflage, making it difficult to spot in its natural habitat. However, you may know one is near when you hear the characteristic, emphatic bob-white whistle ringing through a grassy field.
This bird has a history of being a game bird, and as a result it is considered one of the most intensively studied bird species in the world. Unfortunately, the Northern Bobwhite is considered to be ‘nearly threatened.’ This means that the bobwhite’s population has had a sharp decline in the last half century, most likely due to the loss of habitat and changes in agriculture. According to allaboutbirds.org from 1966 to 2010 they have experienced a widespread, sharp decline with numbers dropping almost 4 percent each year, resulting in a cumulative loss of 82 percent. There is currently the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, which is a consortium of state agencies, conservation organizations and hunters working to improve the prospects of this bird species.
The Northern Bobwhite is considered a small quail. They have round bodies, small heads, rounded wings and short tails. They have intricate patterns of brown, rufous, buff and black. The males have a bold black and white pattern, while the females have a buffy throat and eyebrow. There are 22 subspecies of the Nothern Bobwhite, some of which used to be considered separate species. It is difficult to tell the differences between the females of the subspecies but the males vary dramatically from one subspecies to the next.
You can find the Northern Bobwhite in habitats that provide ample low cover. These birds like open pine forests, overgrown fields, shrubbery areas and grasslands. They forage in groups, scurrying across the ground from cover to cover. Bobwhites will burst into flight with quick wing beats when they are alarmed and then will quickly duck into the nearest cover.
Bobwhites eat mostly seeds and leaves, although they will supplement with varying amounts of insects during the breeding season. During nesting season, the male and the female will jointly choose a nest site on the ground or in low vegetation. Both sexes will work together to dig a scrape in the ground and line it with grass and other dead vegetation. Often, they will weave weeds and grasses in an arch to completely hide the nest from view. 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. One of the main reasons these birds have yet to be on the endangered list is because of their breeding habits. The female will have a clutch size of anywhere from 7 to 28 eggs and she can have up to three broods of this size in a single nesting season.
An interesting fact, “the bobwhite genus is represented by more than 700 known fossils, dug up in sites ranging from Florida to Arizona to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Some of these fossils are at least 2.5 million years old.” – allaboutbirds.org
Despite their sharp decline in numbers, you still have a pretty decent chance of catching a peek at one or more of these birds in the grasslands, prairie or open wooded areas. You’ll hear their distinctive call long before you see them. Thanks again for your continued support!
Be sure to check out the Northern Bobwhite Photo Gallery!