For the quail hunter or quail biologist, crop contents provide a snapshot into the life of that bird on an area of land that day. A quail foraging in a habitat is essentially providing an assay of the energy and nutritional value of a habitat at a given point in time. So, more than just fulfilling a natural curiosity to know more about species we manage, food habitats provide important information on the energy balance of a bird's life from season to season and year to year. Texas Bobwhites is a resource for hunters, managers, and biologists to identify quail diet and to help them build an understanding or appreciation of how diets may change with time and management actions.
Texas Bobwhites is an attractive field guide to seeds commonly eaten by bobwhites in Texas as well as providing some management information. The guide is targeted for the hunting audience and, therefore, spends no effort with taxonomic keys for identifying seeds or illustrations to explain what a spikelet, spine, or striation is. However, with 185 species identified, this guide is one of the most comprehensive currently available for any part of the bobwhites' range, and although not exhaustive, provides information on most of the seeds that would be found in quail and dove crops in Texas and much of the southwestern United States.
The book is well thought out, attractive, and appropriately sized for the office or in the field. The authors begin with a brief introduction on the diet and nutritional needs of bobwhite that summarizes much of the key early nutritional research by Dr. Robert Robel, among others. This quick overview of nutrition provides the reader with a basic understanding of the quail's seasonal nutritional and energy needs as well as a perspective on the important habitat needs throughout the year.
The guide is organized by broad classifications beginning with seeds of rushes and grasses, forbs, and finally woody vines, trees and shrubs. Two full pages are devoted to each plant species, which makes room for a range map of its occurrence in Texas, as well as information on the frequency that the species has been reported in quail crops from published diet studies. In addition, there is a basic description of the plant to aid in its identification and the habitat the plant is most often found in. The authors wisely avoided attempting to rank each species value to bobwhites because the opportunistic diet of quail, which varies temporally and spatially, would make any ranking difficult to validate. Although the text is valuable, the true hallmark of this book is the quality of the photographs. Each species has three associated photos, one showing the plant in flower in its typical environment, and two showing the seeds themselves. The images are crisp, high-resolution photographs that clearly depict the seeds in detail and color. I appreciated the way they used a coin as well as a scale that allowed me to quickly gauge the size, color, and texture of the seeds in the context of a known item—perfect for the hunter or biologist not adept at using plant keys that wishes to identify seeds. Readers can pull this book out and, armed with a magnifying glass, compare the seed in question to the pictures in this book. Including cultural management recommendations for producing each of these species—such as response to burning, grazing, disking, fertilization, and planting depth—would have been a nice addition to this volume.
Following the seed guide, Texas Bobwhites provides a brief chapter on quail management. This information provides a synopsis of that provided in comprehensive works such as Bobwhites in the Rio Grande Plains of Texas, Texas Quails: Ecology and Management, and Beef, Brush and Bobwhites: Quail Management in Cattle County. The authors point out that they are attempting to peak the readers interest in hopes they will jump off into more quail management literature and to that end they achieved their goal with this section. The final chapter on exotic grasses is a valuable addition to the overall effort and provides specific recommendations on dealing with converting exotic pastures to native grasses as well as avoiding their continued spread that often ruins native habitats. The appendices include a list of some 229 species of plants also found in quail crops but not included in the guide. The next appendix is an important one in my mind because it lists other species of wildlife that use the same habitat as bobwhites. This is important because more landowners and managers are managing for multiple species goals but also because good stewardship of grasslands helps a number of declining species.
The authors of Texas Bobwhites have decades of experience with bobwhite research and management in Texas. As normal for this group of authors, they have produced a high-quality product that will help hunters and biologists identify seeds that they find in quail crops but also help the quail enthusiast, manager, and hunter better understand the habitat needs of quail throughout the year. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wishes to improve their seed identification skills and feel confident that it would be a useful addition to any quail hunter or biologist's library in or outside of Texas.