Extensive research has been devoted to quantifying the habitat needs and selection of many wildlife species. However, how habitat selection affects the long-term demographic performance of a species largely has been ignored. We used northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and brush canopy coverage—an important habitat component for quail—to evaluate the influence of habitat on short- and long-term demographic performance of this species. We used data from a 5-yr (2001–2005) radiotelemetry study of northern bobwhite in southern Texas to obtain estimates of bobwhite density, survival, and production on three study areas with 5%, 11%, and 32% brush canopy cover. Our objectives were to compare these demographic variables individually among brush canopy cover classes and then simulate their cumulative effect on demographic performance using a simulation model. All demographic parameters were similar among the three brush canopy cover classes. However, simulation modeling indicated that long-term demographic performance was greater on the 11% and 32% brush canopy cover classes. Simulated bobwhite populations were 2–3 times higher in these two cover classes than the 5% brush canopy cover class. In addition, the probability of population persistence was greater in the 11% (0.91) and 32% (1.00) brush canopy cover classes than the 5% cover class (0.54) using a quasi-extinction criterion of ≤ 40 birds (≤ 0.05 birds · ha−1). Our study highlights the shortcoming of considering only short-term effects when comparing habitat given that short- and long-term effects of habitat on demographic performance can differ.
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