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Quail add spice of life to winter scene

February 19, 2011

BOBWHITE QUAIL (Colinus virginianus) are neat little ground dwellers critters that are native to the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. Although this scribe has seen quail in Marshall County sporadically in the past, having three of them show up under my home feeder during the severe cold weather spell several weeks ago was a welcome sighting. A next door neighbor told me he had additionally seen five birds.

Populations of Bobwhite quail are generally decreasing in much of its range. Habitat demise is one cause but other biological factors, some unknown, are also to blame. Its primary food sources are seeds and insects found near agricultural fields, open grasslands or woodlands. A bird of the southeast United States, the Bobwhite is the only species of quail east of the Mississippi River. Six other types of quail live in the west or southwestern states. Some species of quail inhabit 44 of the 50 states in the USA.

For a plump little bird that is only 10 inches long and has a 15 inch wingspan, it is a fast flyer. Normally found in a covey of 5 to 10 birds, they like to sit tight in heavy cover until a threat gets too close. Then the Bobwhite, with its explosive power from its stubby wings, buzzes away in all directions to confuse potential prey. It is a shy and elusive bird by habit.

Article Photos

Quail are somewhat rare in central Iowa but they do seem to make a living.  For this male Northern Bobwhite Quail, who recently posed for its photograph near this author’s bird feeder, the long cold weather of recent weeks is thankfully over. Spilled seeds on the ground under the feeder seemed to do just fine as a place to dine. The term “Bobwhite” derives from its characteristic whistling call.

For southern ladies and gentlemen, quail hunting is a time honored tradition. While the traditions of the south generally do not extend so much into the upper Midwest, quail hunting in the upper Midwest is a sport with many devoted followers. A good bird dog is a great help to locate and retrieve any birds that fall to the shot.


Other wildlife sighting recently included a Red-tailed Hawk. So what you might ask. They are very common. I agree, but not the one I and several other folks observed along the Iowa River last week. This hawk was almost entirely white. When it did fly, its wingtip ends displayed only a small amount of brown and the banding on its tail was very faint. My trusty bird guide book pegged it as a Krider's (light phase) Red-tailed hawk. It was nice to see.


One does not normally see a dead coyote along side of the highway. However, this past Monday, I passed two in different locations where the coyote's attempt to cross the road was a case of bad timing. Cars 2, coyote zero.


Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Grundy County Heritage Museum in Morrison, local folks will be bringing deer antlers for the day. Official will be present to put the tape to those bony growths to tell the owner how it may rank in Iowa's whitetail history books. If you are not doing anything else, take a drive to Morrison. The museum is a very well done facility with great historical and natural history items to learn from.


ANTLER SCORING in Marshall County will be next Tuesday night, Feb. 22, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm. A presentation by biologist Rick Trine will kick off the meeting with tidbits of information on typical and non-typical deer antlers. Official scorers will be present to tally the numbers for Iowa's big game records. This informative session is open to the public so feel welcome to attend. You will see some very nice local deer trophies.


IOWA'S DEER CLASSIC will open on Friday afternoon, Feb. 24 in Des Moines at Hy-Vee Hall. The event continues through Saturday and Sunday. This huge event will have many well known presenters for seminars and television hosts from several Outdoor Channel venues. If it has anything to do with deer in Iowa, you will find it at the Iowa Deer Classic!


The HAWKEYE FLY FISHING ASSOCIATION is meeting in Des Moines on Feb. 25, 26, and 27. The site is the Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center at 5000 Merle Hay Rd. Fly fishing is a unique way of presenting lures to trout and other fish. There will be presentations on fly fishing techniques, places to fish, and casting demonstrations for adults and kids. Additionally a plethora of equipment and materials will be available. Attendees can also learn about or purchase items for making your own flies.

Presenters include: Larry Dahlberg, the host of "Hunt for Big Fish," Chris Helm will talk about deer hair uses to make flies, Bill Sherer likes to go after muskies with his gear, and Ron Cisar will be part of the entertainment for the evening banquet on Saturday. Lots of raffles and prizes will be part of the overall adventure for all who attend.

Details for the Hawkeye Fly Fishing event can be obtained by visiting


DUCKS UNLIMITED (DU) will host its annual membership banquet on March 12 at the Regency Inn in Marshalltown. Doors open at 5 p.m. The dinner will be served around 6:30. Early bird tickets bought before March 5 will cost $40. Greenwing (youth) tickets are $30. If you want an additional spouse ticket, that goes for $15. Funds raised at the DU event assist with local, state and national programs. Since 1939, DU has been a force to speak for waterfowl conservation issues and wetland habitats the birds need.

Just in the last 25 years, more than 8 million acres of native prairie and grasslands have disappeared. When gone, so to goes the wildlife of all kinds that relied on those sites for shelter, brood raising and food. Native prairies are less than one-tenth of one percent of the land in Iowa. Much of central Iowa is part of the glaciated Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and portions of Canada. Sixty percent of all waterfowl in North America rely a large extent on this biological landform with its wetland complexes.

For ticket information to the DU event this year, call Jeff Mathis at 754-5527.


State Conservation Officer John Steinbach will be presenting a program about game wardens in Iowa and what his typical duties entail for enforcement of conservation of laws. The public is welcome to hear what he has to say on Thursday at 7 p.m., Feb. 24 at the Fisher Community Center. Steinbach was recently assigned to Marshall and Grundy Counties by the Iowa DNR. He has extensive knowledge of fish and game issues and likes to watch all kinds of critters in the wild during his inspections and observations. The Central Iowa Ornithologists (Bird Club) are the hosts for the program. All are welcome to attend.


Wit or wisdom?: Words that soak into your ears are whispered ... not yelled.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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