Northern Bobwhite is Missouri’s only quail species. These small Galliformes are of the same order as pheasant, grouse, prairie-chicken, and wild turkey. Bobwhite travel and forage in groups called “coveys”, scurrying from one patch of cover to the next. Their camouflaged plumage and secretive behavior makes them difficult to spot, but their loud whistle “bob-white” gives them right away. Habitat loss has led to a sharp decline in Bobwhite in the eastern U.S., but conservation efforts continue to reverse these declines. You can find Bobwhite in grassland with patches of shrubs, in pasture, along shrubby fence rows, hedges, and in woodland with an open understory.
Bobwhite are a permanent resident around the state, but here are a few places on the Trail where they are common:
1. Long Branch State Park. Take the Little Chariton Prairie Trail that leads through a restored prairie.
2. Tucker Prairie. As you walk through this prairie, find the scattered groupings of shrubs and thickets and you should hear many Bobwhite.
3. Busch Conservation Area. Grab an area map and try any of the short trail loops scattered around Busch.
4. Sand Prairie Conservation Area. This unique prairie has lots of Bobwhite skulking about,but you’ll have to walk overland to find them-there are no trails here.
5. Hi Lonesome Prairie Conservation Area. As you might imagine, this prairie is filled with calling Bobwhite. Take any trail and you’ll hear many of them.
6. Prairie State Park. Stop by the visitors center and then take any of the trail heads leading away from it to find Bobwhites.