Manage Wildlife Openings for More than Deer

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MONTGOMERY-A majority of wildlife openings in Alabama are developed to benefit or attract white-tailed deer. white tail deerHowever, the benefits are much broader and many other species can and may already benefit from managing those openings throughout the year. Other game species such as Northern bobwhite or wild turkey can greatly benefit from wildlife openings as well as songbirds, rabbits and many non-game species.

egyptian wheatDeciding on what and when to plant for deer can be important for attracting additional species. One grain that can be beneficial for deer, quail, turkey, and a host of other species is Egyptian wheat. Planting Egyptian wheat in the spring and summer months can provide a great food source for quail during the fall and late winter. Fall-planted wheat may be beneficial to turkeys in the fall and winter and may also provide needed cover for quail during the summer breeding season. Other foods that can be beneficial for deer, quail, and other species include grain sorghum and corn, which provide food in the fall and winter months if planted in the spring or summer.

For a more cost-efficient planting, try browntop millet, which is commonly used in wildlife openings. Millet can be a browntop milletgreat choice if you want to manage openings for mourning doves, while other species such as quail will also benefit from the planting. Millet, wheat, or any other grains that are planted throughout the year can be beneficial for songbird species as well. During the summer months field sparrows, indigo buntings, and blue grosbeaks are just a few of the species you may encounter in those openings. The timing of plantings as well as the proportion of openings planted at a given time are both important factors to consider when attracting certain species.

quailIt may be beneficial not to plant entire openings at once. If considering quail in your management plan, a good rule of thumb is to have 25 percent of an opening planted at any given time to provide beneficial food as well as cover for those birds. Maintaining a portion of the opening in fallow fields year-round can create important brood habitat for quail. This can be established by maintaining patches of annual weeds with species such as common ragweed and partridge pea among planted patches. These fallow fields provide overhead cover with bare ground for chicks to move around along with an abundance of insects. Planting strips while incorporating rotational disking can help provide good foraging areas with bare ground interspersed throughout.

Another way to manage wildlife openings for quail as well as rabbits and songbirds is to develop shrub thickets scattered rabbitamong an opening or along the edges. Good species to include are blackberry, wild plum and wax myrtle. While providing escape cover for quail and rabbits, these thickets make good nesting habitat for other songbird species such as yellow-breasted chats.

song birdRegardless of the primary reason for developing wildlife openings, it is important to realize that with proper management, those openings will provide needed habitat and food resources for several other species. Having a better understanding of the management options can enhance multiple species and increase our enjoyment in outdoor Alabama.

MEDIA RELEASE/ Carrie B. Threadgill, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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