Helping Texas Land Owners Create Habitats For Dove And Quail

As our habitat program continues to grow and the successes of past projects begin to come to light we reflect on the end results the land owners are looking for. For some it has been a multi-use crop that provides good habitat for quail and dove, and forage for deer in some cases. These properties can also be the most fun to work with because you can get creative with how you lay out the plots and what mixtures of annuals and perennials you might use, however they are the more difficult properties to lay out simply due to the challenges of preference for each species. For the most part dove like the ground bare, quail like bunchgrasses and deer like leafy forages in food plots. The other properties have mostly been specific to dove and have predominantly been a native crop. The dominate crop thus far has been a native sunflower, some areas of the state such as deep south Texas have had success with Rio Grande clammy weed. There are many different options for native plants that are great for dove, more specifically for mourning dove. Some properties have been closer to urban areas that are predominantly white-winged dove and Eurasian collard dove. These properties usually result in an annual crop like milo and black oil sunflowers. All these scenarios seem textbook but once in the field we are quickly reminded that we are talking about a migratory bird that changes habits quite often and are also extremely prone to weather change. None of these scenarios are written in stone, you will find mourning dove, white-winged dove and Eurasian collared dove feeding in mixed fields. The one constant that applies to what dove eat is this…about 99% of their diet is seed, less than 1% is insects, so clearly, we lean towards seed feed crops.

There are always lots of questions about sunflowers. There are many different beliefs and preferences when it comes to sunflowers. The tall sunflowers you see with the large heads are most likely a black oil sunflower or a peredovik sunflower. This is the plant that produces sunflowers for commercial eating (found in baseball dugouts) and sunflower oil. These sunflowers are predominantly planted for white-winged dove though not exclusively. The white-winged dove will perch to eat and can sit atop the large sunflower and eat, whereas the mourning dove prefers to eat seed that has fallen to the ground (or been knocked down by shredder). As for the native sunflower, there are annual and perennial flowers used for attracting dove. The most popular are the Common and Maximillian sunflowers. Maximillian is a native perennial which can continue to grow for several years with perennial herbaceous growth. The Common is an annual sunflower that will reseed each year from the seed it produced with minimal ground disturbance.

There are many suggestions for native crops in various parts of the state. With the help of Dr. Eric Grahman, we have the state broken down into 15 regions with different native mixes based on soil types. The struggle you may find in planting some of these mixes is sourcing the seed. Some seed companies carry a couple more common native crops like sunflowers and wooly croton but not a lot of some of the others more common to certain parts of the state. For more information on native crops in your area or to schedule a consultation, please call the office at (210) 764-1189.