Ecology of Montezuma Quail in Southeast Arizona
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Montezuma quail (Cyrtonix montezumae) life history is the least understood of all North American quail due to historical difficulties in capturing and monitoring marked individuals of this species. Most aspects of its population dynamics, range and habitat use have remained as knowledge gaps until now. My study overcame these difficulties and I was able to trap and monitor 88 individuals from 2008–2010 at 3 study sites in southeast Arizona. Techniques for trapping and monitoring included the use of trained pointing dogs, hoop nets, funnel traps, and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras. I estimated survival probabilities as well as range size for radio-marked individuals. The estimated survival, using the Kaplan-Meier staggered entry method, combined amongst 3 study sties, was 21.9% from fall 2008–2009. Survival for quail at the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in 2010 was 4.8%. For range estimation, I used the minimum convex polygon (MCP) and fixed kernel estimators. The largest MCP range estimate for an individual (206.65 ha) was far greater than previous estimates reported for this species in the literature. The mean seasonal range size, using the fixed kernel 95% utilization distribution, also was 60% higher at Stevens Canyon, 63% higher at Hog Canyon, and 47% higher at the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch than the largest use area (50 ha) reported in the literature. A wildfire in 2009 provided an opportunity to examine post-fire succession and habitat use. I observed roosting in fire-affected areas within 1 week post-fire and successful nesting in fire-affected areas within 3 months post-fire. Low survival and reduced 95% fixed kernel ranges for quail at the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in 2010 was attributed to strong El Niño conditions in the Pacific that brought a severe winter storm to the region. The combined results from this research help to address knowledge gaps about Montezuma quail survival demographics, range, habitat use, and provide references to baseline data to assist managing potential impacts associated with stochastic events such as wildfire and periods of inclement weather associated with above average winter precipitation.
Chavarria, Pedro Mazier (2013). Ecology of Montezuma Quail in Southeast Arizona. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from