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Apparent Seed Digestibility and Germination of Seeds After Passage Through the Digestive System of Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)

Springer, Tim L., Thacker, Eric T.
The Southwestern naturalist 2017 v.62 no.3 pp. 193-199
Achillea millefolium, Artemisia filifolia, Colinus virginianus, Dalea candida, Rudbeckia hirta, Sporobolus airoides, digestibility, digestion, digestive system, feces, forbs, grasses, herbicides, landscapes, legumes, overgrazing, quails, sand, seed germination, seeds, shrubs
Limited information is available regarding the digestibility or germination of seeds after passage through the digestive system of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus), especially of plants associated with the sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia)–mixed prairie community. Thus, our objectives were to determine the apparent digestibility of seeds of 45 plant species associated with the sand sagebrush–mixed prairie community and the germination of seeds before and after passage through the digestion system of bobwhites. Seeds of 12 of 45 species fed to bobwhites were found to pass through the digestive system intact. The apparent seed digestion pattern of the 12 plant species with incomplete digestion of seeds was legumes > forbs > grasses > shrubs. At the end of a 7-d germination period, the digestion of seeds by bobwhites reduced seed germination of alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and western yarrow (Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis) but increased the germination of white prairie clover (Dalea candida) seeds (P ≤ 0.05). However, the germination percentage of predigestion seeds of white prairie clover exceeded that of postdigestion seeds (P < 0.05) by the end of a 21-d germination period. Averaged across species, the 21-d seed germination of postdigestion seeds was lower than predigestion seeds (P < 0.05). Viable seeds found in feces are disseminated by quail onto the landscape. Plant species that have been lost from overgrazing or the application of herbicides might be reintroduced onto landscapes through dissemination by bobwhites via food plots, feeding stations, or both if the seeds are deposited onto a suitable germination substrate with suitable seed germination conditions.