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Habitat and use of space in the common quail coturnix coturnix coturnix at the onset of the breeding period

Habitat and use of space in the common quail coturnix coturnix coturnix at the onset of the breeding period

Gibier Faune Sauvage 3(DEC): 317-342

The habitat and the use of space by the common quail (Coturnix coturnix coturnix) were studied in two areas : the Haut-Languedoc and the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel [France]. Singing males gather in breeding ground of a few hectares, which are used from year to year. In Lauragais (Haute-Languedoc) these sites are most often situated in wide hollows and on hillsides sheltered from the prevailing winds. In each site, quail follow the shift of the crops : winter wheat, spring and fallow lands make up 92 % of the space used, but only 40 % of the available surface area. On the salt meadows (schorre) of the Mont Saint-Michel, habitats of high grasses are preferred, whereas crops are avoided. Quail have a preference for cover with a vertical structure like traditional wheat crops and prairies with tufted grass in which they may easily move over the ground, and which offer protection from avian predators and a shelter from the wind. Such a habitat type is most important for the selection of roosting sites. Feeding may take place in low vegetation cover. Calling males like to establish their singing grounds on small mounds. The instability of the daily activity areas, which nevertheless never exceed the boundaries of the breeding ground, has been confirmed by a radiotracking experiment involving at least three males in each study area. Social interaction is partly responsible for the choice of the habitat. Finally, the attachment of the species to man, through cultivation, is mentioned.

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