Northern Bobwhite

Colinus virginianus

North Carolina, Sandhills Field Station

The Northern Bobwhite is a type of quail. It is a stocky, brown bird with a belly streaked with white.

Male bobwhites have a white throat and eyebrow.

Northern Bobwhites live in a group, called a covey. They can be found in fields, forest clearings, roadsides, and farms.

Even though Northern Bobwhites can fly, they usually walk to get around. They can also run fast, although they usually fly to get away from danger.

Bobwhites live here year-round.

Ohio History Central

Dan Sudia

The breeding season for bobwhites is April to September. During this time a pair will build a nest out of grass, hidden on the ground among grasses and weeds.

Females lay 10 t 15 white eggs, and both parents take turns sitting on them.

Iowa Deptartment of Natural Resources

Iowa Deptartment of Natural Resources

In about three weeks, the young bobwhites hatch. Parents only care for them the first week. After that, they must feed themselves. Usually the male watches over the young, while the female is already sitting on a new nest. Young Northern Bobwhites can fly two or three weeks after they are born.

Coveys are formed after breeding season. A covey may have as many as 25 birds.

Northern Bobwhite eat a wide variety of foods, including seeds, fruits, plants, insects, and spiders.

In the Winter, they mostly they eat plant foods, including: pine seeds, Wild Grape, blackberries, wild roses, Japanese Honeysuckle, Switchgrass, Flowering Dogwood, Poison Ivy, sumacs, Sassafras, ragweeds, acorns, Spotted Jewelweed, Black Locust, Spicebush, crabgrass, Sweetgum, violets, hickorynuts, sunflowers, thistles, and clovers.

In the Summer, they mostly eat animals, including: beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, spiders, snails, centipedes, isopods, millipedes, and others.

Northern Bobwhites are very vulnerable to predators when they sit on their nests. Large predators may take the parents, but more often the young are eaten. Predators of bobwhites include: Raccoon, Red Fox, snakes, owls, hawks, Virginia Opossum, Eastern Chipmunk, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Common Crow, Blue Jay, Striped Skunk, Eastern Mole, and Woodchuck. About half of each batch of chicks will be killed by predators.

Bobwhite parents will somtimes use the "broken-wing display." They fake an injury and run away from the nest. The predator, thinking the bird is an easy meal, follows. Another way bobwhites protect themselves, outside of the breeding season, is by forming a tight circle with heads pointed outward. This way a covey can see in all directions.

Northern Bobwhites are territorial and coveys will defend an area from other coveys.

Plants that bobwhites often use for shelter include: shrubs, pines, Wild Grape, blackberries, wild roses, honeysuckles, Switchgrass, Witch Hazel, Flowering Dogwood, and Common Elderberry.

Bobwhites help to spread many plants by pooping seeds out in new places.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Northern Bobwhite Song
Sound
John R. Sauer
Northern Bobwhite Chicks
Video
Tall Timber Research Station
Northern Bobwhite Defending Nest from Snake
Video
Tall Timber Research Station
Northern Bobwhite Being Attacked by Snake
Video
Tall Timber Research Station
Northern Bobwhites Feeding
Video
Phil Heine
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Wild Grape

Raccoon

Common Elderberry

Wild Grape D

Loblolly Pine

Red Fox

Evergreen Blackberry

Smooth Sumac D

Willow Oak

Virginia Opossum

Switchgrass

Japanese Honeysuckle D

Smooth Sumac

Black Rat Snake

Black Willow

Poison Ivy D

Common Ragweed

Copperhead

Wild Grape

Common Ragweed D

Japanese Honeysuckle

Eastern Mole

Eastern White Pine

Smooth Crabgrass D

Sassafras

Woodchuck

Virginia Pine

Switchgrass D

Daring Jumping Spider

Eastern Chipmunk

Loblolly Pine

Sassafras D

Garden Centipede

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Witch Hazel

Spicebush D

Common Black Ground Beetle

Red-tailed Hawk

Flowering Dogwood

Chigger Pa

Isopod

Barred Owl

Japanese Honeysuckle

Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose

Striped Skunk

Poison Ivy

Green Stinkbug

Common Crow

Bracken Fern

Skunk Cabbage

Blue Jay

Smooth Crabgrass

Field Cricket

Eastern Hognose Snake

Pokeweed

European Gypsy Moth

Common Grackle

Smooth Sumac

Spotted Jewelweed

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Highbush Blueberry

Smooth Crabgrass

Norway Rat

Greenbrier

Spicebush

Spicebush

Swamp Rose Mallow

Black Locust

Relationship to Humans:

Northern Bobwhite are one of the most popular gamebirds and many are hunted and eaten each year. They are also good insect controllers.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Bird
ORDER
Galliformes
FAMILY
Phasianidae
GENUS
Colinus
SPECIES
Colinus virginianus

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