National Quail Symposium Proceedings


Southern Texas contains some of the last relatively unfragmented habitat for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; hereafter, bobwhite) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) in the United States. Development of the Eagle Ford Shale hydrocarbon formation in this region could negatively impact quail and their habitat. Our objective was to examine the indirect effects of oil and gas activity (traffic and noise) on bobwhite and scaled quail on 2 private ranches in southern Texas. In 2015 and 2016, we radio-marked bobwhite and scaled quail in 2 areas where oil and gas activity was occurring (disturbed treatment) and 2 areas where little oil and gas activity occurred (undisturbed treatment). We measured vehicle passages and modeled noise propagation from oil and gas infrastructure at 2 biologically relevant frequencies (250 Hz and 1,000 Hz) in our study area to quantify oil and gas disturbance and examine its effects on quail space use (site selection and home range size) and demographics (survival, nest success, and density). Bobwhite and scaled quail selected areas 0–200 m and >425 m, respectively, from the primary, high-traffic roads in the disturbed treatment. In the undisturbed treatment, bobwhite and scaled quail selected areas 0–425 m and 0–300 m from primary roads, respectively. Bobwhite and scaled quail selected areas with sound levels 0–1.6 and 0–2.2 dB above ambient levels at the 250-Hz frequency level, respectively. At 1,000 Hz, bobwhite and scaled quail selected areas with sound levels 0–2 and 0–3.2 dB above ambient levels, respectively. We found no evidence that disturbance variables affected bobwhite and scaled quail home range size, survival, or density. We found bobwhite nest success decreased as sound levels (dB) at 250 Hz increased; we found no relationship between nest success and disturbance for scaled quail, possibly as they avoided major oil and gas disturbances. In calculations of the total footprint of quail habitat loss, indirect loss due to oil and gas activity needs to be considered in addition to direct loss due to conversion of rangeland to oil and gas infrastructure.