Rainwater Collection for Bobwhite Quail & Surrogator

Bobwhite quail don’t usually need supplemental water. In fact, they satisfy most of their water needs from dew and metabolic water. That said, many desert quail do benefit from rainwater collection systems in the wild.

But, bobwhite quail in a surrogator do need water.  And, in the hot TX summer, they drink a lot! Most recently, 120 bobwhite quail drank 75 gallons of water of a 6 week period in July – September 2018.

Since the water tank on the Surrogator only holds 15 gallons, you will need to regularly refill that tank. And, since the Surrogator is best located in a pasture under a tree, the likelihood that you’ve got a hose bib or spigot is almost zero.

A simple rainwater collection system and a small water pump seem to be an ideal solution to carrying water long distances.

I repurposed an old wildlife waterer that had a small 4′ x 4′ collection roof and a 250-gallon tank. I’ve built and used smaller configurations but find that this size almost guarantees I’ll have enough water for the entire summer.

We had a few dry years and expanding the collection surface proved to be very easy.

And then we went and added another just because we could.

In the offseason, I attach a float controlled waterer from Tractor Supply and return the rainwater collector to its original purpose – watering the wildlife!


Quail Surrogator Maintenance

Quail are messy, stinky birds. Your Surrogator is going to need cleaning regularly. The instructions say to power wash it after every cycle. I used to do that but transporting and resetting it every cycle was a PITA. Now, I only clean the Surrogator once yearly after the season.

Your bobwhite quail are going to leave a big pile of poop under your Surrogator. They are also going to make a big mess of the inside of your surrogator.

Fortunately, the Surrogator XL fits nicely into the back of a pickup. A helper is very helpful.

I use a small, cheap power washer to clean mine and it works fine.

It will inevitably pit and rust so use caution with the power washer to avoid washing off too much paint.

I use a side angle grinder with a wire wheel to remove the rust and peeling paint.

I use Rustoleum Flat Black Heavy Duty paint to cover the bare spots after washing and buffing with the wire wheel to protect the bare metal.

I also check, tighten and replace any missing screws to prevent unauthorized entry by varmints and critters.

I’ve used my Surrogator for 8 years and can foresee using for another 20 years. It is very well built and if you take reasonable care of it, it should last for many years!

Building Bobwhite Quail Habitat and Locating the Surrogator

Bobwhite quail can be scarce in your location for a number of reasons. But, the primary reason is typically a lack of good or adequate habitat.

In fact, I spend much more time and money building and manipulating the overall habitat than I ever do on the bobwhite quail and surrogator. And, while driving tractor and pulling machinery is fun…….loading, tending and releasing quail from the surrogator is More Fun!

If you’re in Texas, then the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is your one-stop destination for all quail habitat information. Other states tend to rely on research and information from the state wildlife organization and their land-grant university.

Nevertheless, it’s worth saying clearly. If you don’t have the habitat or can’t improve the habitat you have, you won’t be successful repopulating wild bobwhite quail on your property.

My strategy is to reduce the invasive ground cover, increase the forbes and build habitat for nesting, brooding and feeding. I do this with a medium sized 55 HP tractor, a shredder, an antique drag disc and a rebuilt John Deere Model B seed drill. I run this equipment during the Summer to clear brush from new areas, in the Fall to plant winter seed crop (usually wheat) and then in the Spring to plant Spring seed crop (usually brown millet and some Hegari or milo).

The best location for your Surrogator is out in the field where you have the best habitat and under a shade tree. You’ll also want to position it along the prevailing winds so that the heating unit pilot light is protected from drafts.