Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae Vigors) are closely associated with oak woodlands (Quercus spp.). Livestock grazing and cover availability are considered important factors affecting Montezuma quail distribution and density. While habitat conditions during pairing season (April–June) are thought to be important to Montezuma quail survival and reproduction, information on habitat selection during that time is limited. We investigated habitat selection by Montezuma quail in grazed and ungrazed areas within the Huachuca and Santa Rita mountain foothills in southeastern Arizona. We used pointing dogs to locate quail during the pairing seasons of 1998 and 1999, and measured habitat characteristics at 60 flush sites and 60 associated random plots (within 100 m of flush sites). We recorded information on landform, substrate, vegetation, and cover. Montezuma quail selected (P < 0.10) areas with higher grass canopy cover and more trees than randomly available. Short (≤ 50 cm tall) visual obstruction (cover), usually associated with bunch grass, was greater (P < 0.10) at use sites than at random plots. Land management practices that reduce grass and tree cover may affect Montezuma quail habitat quality and availability in southeastern Arizona. Based on habitat selection patterns of Montezuma quail, we recommend that oak woodland habitats should contain a minimum tree canopy of 26%, and 51–75% grass canopy cover at the 20-cm height to provide optimum cover availability.
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Vol. 57 • No. 5