Woodlot edge enhancement by edge-feathering for Northern Bobwhites on private lands in southwestern Ohio
Coree A. Brooks, MS
Advisor: Robert J. Gates
Clean farming practices and forest succession have contributed to population decline of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) across northern portions of their range. Intensively farmed landscapes lack early successional vegetation that provides protective cover near food sources. Research has been conducted since 2009 on 4 private land study sites in southwestern Ohio demonstrating use of early successional habitats (i.e. fencerows, old fields) in higher proportions than available, and survival was positively influenced by availability of protective cover in early successional habitats. I studied vegetation response to removal of trees from wooded edges (hear after edge-feathering) on private owned farmlands. I hypothesized edgefeathering would provide suitable habitat for bobwhites during the non-breeding season. Ninety-nine areas ranging in size were treated during spring and summer in 2012 and 2013. I used repeated measures analysis of variance to test for differences in vegetation structure and composition among study sites, edge aspects, size classes, edge types, and basal area reduction. I used radio-telemetry to determine use of treated areas, measured vegetation characteristics at used points, and estimated home-ranges. Basal area reduction was the most important variable when creating early successional habitat and basal reductions between 37 - 50% resulted in positive cover after 1 season. Locations from coveys across all sites revealed feathered edges provided better cover than what coveys used. Only 5 total feathered edges fell within home-ranges of marked coveys. Management of woodlots by edge-feathering should be considered by managers, because they result in cover similar to what bobwhites use. Other cover types such as early successional herbaceous, and row crop need to be considered and close to treated edges to maximize use and benefit bobwhites.