West-Central Louisiana Ecosystem Partnership (WLEP)
Kisatchie National Forest Vernon Quail Focal Area
By Matt Pardue, US Forest Service
The Vernon Unit of the Kisatchie National Forest (KNF) is one of the last strongholds for quail in Louisiana. The 84,000 acre unit also contains one of the largest red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) populations in the state. KNF together with other members of the West-Central Louisiana Ecosystem Partnership are working to improve quail habitat on 5,992 acres by creating a patchy mosaic with frequent fire, smaller burn blocks, alternating fire regimes, thinnings, wildlife openings, and supplemental plantings. The partnership is working toward getting the Quail Focal Area certified through the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Certification will require a more intense monitoring protocol which was initiated in the fall of 2017. Spring whistle counts are done two weeks in the month of June and fall covey counts performed two weeks in October. To date, 42 wildlife openings have been created and planted in spring to provide a mosaic effect in the landscape and an extra source of food for quail, turkeys, and their young. Small burns alternating from dormant to growing season provide a patchy mosaic effect and leave escape cover for quail. Upcoming activities include trapping and telemetry work to gain a better understanding of bird movements as well as what type of habitat is being used for escape cover, loafing cover, and night roosting cover. An initial two birds have been tagged with satellite receivers and will be used as “judas birds” to catch more when they are coveyed up in the fall.
Quail outfitted with a transmitter to track movements to determine habitat usage and nocturnal roosting locations. Photo by Matt Pardue.