J. Matthew Carroll, Craig A. Davis, R. Dwayne Elmore, Samuel D. Fuhlendorf
Rangeland Ecology and Management 70 (2), 175-182, (1 March 2017) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2016.08.006
KEYWORDS: Colinus virginianus, dispersal, home range, movement, prescribed burning, prescribed fire
Despite inhabiting fire-adapted grasslands and shrublands across much of their continental distribution, northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus, hereafter bobwhite) behavior relative to disturbance (e.g., fire) is poorly understood, especially in the western fringe of their distribution. We assessed bobwhite movement and space use following dormant season burning (January–March 2013–2014) in a sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii, hereafter shinnery oak) plant community. We captured and radio-marked bobwhites (n=369) and monitored them via radiotelemetry across burn treatments (averaging 254 ha) ranging from 0 to 12, 13 to 24, 25 to 36, and >36 months post fire (hereafter, time since fire [TSF]) at the Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area in western Oklahoma, United States. Mean covey home range size was 76.6 ha ± 5.9 [SE] (range; 12–270 ha) (n = 61 coveys), which is substantially larger than covey home ranges reported for other regions. Prescribed fire affected space use of coveys (F4, 54 = 2.95, P < 0.05), which was driven by smaller home range sizes of coveys using 25–36 TSF (52.07 ha [± 6.6]) than 0–12 (85.0 ha [± 15.53]), 13–24 (86.7 ha [± 20.7]) and > 36 TSF (78.9 ha [± 6.54]). Generalized linear mixed models demonstrated that neither spring dispersal (movements or area traversed) were correlated with TSF, age, or sex (n = 114), further demonstrating aminimal effect of prescribed fire; however, dispersal areas were greater in 2013 than in 2014 (P < 0.05). Our research shows that prescribed fire applied at a landscape scale had limited effects on short-term bobwhite movement and space use. These findings also suggest that in shinnery oak vegetation communities land managers can use prescribed fire across large spatial extents without substantially altering the space use or movement of bobwhites.