Age-specific reproduction has been suggested for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and has been hypothesized as a factor contributing to population irruptions. However, little research has been conducted on the subject. We conducted a laboratory and field study to determine if age-specific reproduction occurred in northern bobwhites. Our objectives were to compare 7 reproductive measures (% F nesting, date of first incubated nest, egg-laying rate, nesting rate, clutch size, egg mass, and egg hatchability) between first- and second-year breeders and determine if differential reproduction was impacted by diet quality. The laboratory study consisted of a 2 × 2 factorial experiment with age and diet quality (low protein [12%] and high protein [24%]) as the factors. Data for the field study represented a 6-year data set of bobwhite reproduction (May–Sep 2000–2005) obtained from an ongoing radiotelemetry study in southern Texas, USA. We documented similar productivity (i.e., % F laying, egg-laying rate, and egg mass) and timing of laying (i.e., date of first egg) between juvenile (n = 33) and adult bobwhites (n = 27) in our laboratory study. However, females on the high-protein diet exhibited a greater egg-laying rate than females on the low-protein diet. Under field conditions, we also documented no difference in productivity (% F nesting, nesting rate, clutch size, egg hatchability) and timing of nesting (date of first incubated nest) between age classes (n = 59 juv and 32 ad). Our findings do not support early suppositions of age-specific reproduction in quail. Quail irruptions should not be influenced by population age structure as it relates to age-specific reproduction.
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Vol. 71 • No. 3