SSAA SHOT Expo Brisbane 2017

Quail Research Project

SSAA National, in partnership with SSAA South Australia, SSAA Victoria and SSAA Tasmania, is continuing and expanding its Quail Research Project. Again, we require the assistance and support of quail hunters. We have conducted analysis of the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 data and are now calling for expressions of interest for the collection of biological samples from stubble quail harvested during this year’s South Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian quail seasons.

Background information

Knowledge of the abundance and spatial and temporal variations of stubble quail in South Australia and Victoria has been limited to various surveys and data collections by CSIRO during the 1970s and 1980s. There has been less research conducted regarding brown quail in Tasmania (and on mainland Australia). These limitations and dated information have resulted in public disquiet about the sustainable management of the quail resource.

One such gap is detailed information about the sex and age of the birds being harvested. As a key stakeholder in the management of quail across Australia, SSAA National initiated a trial data collection program in 2011. The results of that trial were positive and more than 600 samples of shot birds were collected. SSAA National is keen to continue collecting data that will contribute to the development of a robust quail management plan and contribute to the better understanding of quail in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania’s landscapes offer an assortment of habitat types, ranging from conservation areas, game reserves, developed agricultural lands, plantations and wetland habitats. These land and vegetation types create ideal habitats to support permanent quail populations, and may act as habitats for quail that enter South Australia and Victoria from elsewhere.

This project seeks to continue our earlier initiative and collect samples from quail shot legally during quail seasons in South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania. An increase in the range of sites sampled will enable the continued exploration of any temporal and spatial variation in the sex and age of birds being shot. The samples will be collected and stored frozen by hunters prior to collection and transportation to a central location for ultimate analysis at a later date.

Methodology

  • Hunters will be asked to collect samples from birds shot at different locations throughout South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
  • Samples will include the head and an entire wing from each bird. The head and wing of each separate bird will be placed in a sealed plastic bag, and the bag labelled with the site location and harvest date.
  • Samples will be initially stored frozen at the hunter’s residence or a selected local collection point until the time of analysis.
  • When ready for analysis, the samples will be thawed and the following measurements taken:
    • Species will be determined to ensure all birds are indeed stubble quail;
    • The sex of the bird;
    • Wing feather measurements, for estimating age. These feathers will be subsequently stored for stable isotope analysis at a later date, and;
    • If available, a small muscle samples will be taken and stored in 70% ethanol for DNA analysis at a later date. The balance of the material can then be discarded, returned to the freezer, or sent to another institution with an interest in the samples;
    • When analysis is completed, a report will be written outlining the species, sex and age characteristics of the birds shot at different locations and times through the season. The information will also be used to inform the decision-making process for future quail seasons.

Registering interest

If you would like to participate in this year’s SSAA Quail Research Project and collect samples from some of the birds that you harvest, please email the Project Coordinator and provide your name, email address and the town/city in which you live.

Information relevant to the project and proposed sample collections points will be sent out via email as the season progresses. General enquiries regarding the research project can also be made to the Project Coordinator.

Sample taking

Participants are asked to take samples from birds that they harvest during this year’s season. Individual samples (head and one whole wing) should be labelled and placed within zip-lock-type bags and frozen. Using a permanent pen/marker, label each individual sample with the date and location (nearest town) from which the sample bird was harvested.

Information can be recorded on either a piece of paper included inside the bag or on the outside of the bag itself. Whichever method is chosen, it is important that the labelling is clear and permanent.

Not every bird that the hunter harvests during the seasons needs to be sampled. Ideally, it would be much appreciated if participants provided a selection of birds that were collected over time and space. This means, for example, that a number of samples be collected at the same places (favourite hunting locations) at the start of each month throughout the season. The number of birds sampled is purely at the discretion of the participant, but the more that are taken, the better the result for the project.

It would also be advantageous for participants to include a sample of ground vegetation pickings from each of the sampled hunting sites. They can be labelled the same way as the head and wing samples. This will enable the vegetative matter to be analysed to obtain an isotopic signature for that particular area, and then relate that vegetation signature to the bird’s signature. In this way, information about bird movements can be explored.

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