The Texas Quail Index: Evaluating Predictors of Quail Abundance Using Citizen Science
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Annual abundance of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) fluctuates drastically in Texas, which complicates a quail manager’s ability to forecast quail abundance for the ensuing hunting season. The Texas Quail Index (TQI) was a 5-year citizen-science project that evaluated several indices of quail abundance and habitat parameters as predictors of quail abundance during the ensuing fall. I found that spring cock-call counts explained 41% of the variation in fall covey-call counts for all study sites in year 1–4, and 89% of the variation in year 5. Further investigation revealed that year 5 was a drought year and had a significantly lower percentage of juveniles in the hunter’s bag. These results suggest that during drought years, fall quail abundance is more predictable than during non-drought years and that low breeding success may be the reason. If these data are correct, quail managers should have a better ability to predict the declines of their fall quail abundance in the dry years. The TQI relied on citizen scientists (cooperators) to collect data. Since most (66.1%) cooperators dropped out of the program, and <8% of all data sets were complete, I surveyed the cooperators by mail to determine the rate and cause of cooperator decline and to identify characteristics of a reliable cooperator (i.e., one that did not drop out of the study). I found that cooperator participation declined earlier each year for year 1–4, and that year 5 demonstrated a steady trend with the least amount of cooperators. Most respondents who dropped out (61.5%) reported their motive for leaving was that it was too time consuming. I found no difference in mean cooperator demographics, satisfaction, or landownership goals between those respondents who dropped out and those that did not. However, 38% of those who dropped out were not completely satisfied with communication from TQI coordinators compared to only 15% of those who did not drop out, indicating that communication, or perhaps overall volunteer management, might have been improved. Future studies should maintain better communication with participants, require less time, and provide an incentive for retention.
Reyna, Kelly Shane (2008). The Texas Quail Index: Evaluating Predictors of Quail Abundance Using Citizen Science. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from