Assessment of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) habitat management practices is often expensive and labor intensive, as is the tracking of bobwhites to measure resource use and reaction to management or experimental treatment. Traditional solutions to both these problems (e.g., aerial and satellite imagery and Very High Frequency tracking tags [VHF]) each have issues including lengthy return times, coarse scale, high labor inputs, and possible observer bias. Northern bobwhite researchers have recently begun to use solar powered Global Positioning System tags (GPS) to acquire fine scale northern bobwhite location data. I first compared differences in daily survival probabilities between northern bobwhite wearing typical VHF tags and GPS tags in the Rolling Plains of Texas from 2017 – 2019. I estimated apparent survival for northern bobwhites (n = 112) during the non-breeding season, 1 October – 31 March. When possible, I paired northern bobwhites of similar mass in the same coveys with both transmitter types and used radio telemetry to determine fates of radio-tagged northern bobwhites. I developed 3 a priori models using the nest survival model in Program MARK to estimate daily survival probabilities (DSP) for both transmitter pairings as well as to explore the relationship between survival and quail mass. Northern bobwhites fitted with GPS backpacks had 0.03 lower daily survival probabilities compared to VHF necklace-equipped northern bobwhites with non-overlapping 95% confidence intervals (GPS DSP = 0.95; SE = 0.008; VHF DSP = 0.98; SE = 0.003).
Next, I evaluated the efficacy of using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) paired with GPS tag data to assess northern bobwhite habitat. I used an UAV to collect high resolution georeferenced imagery of the home ranges of a subset of my study animals (n = 20). These images were developed into a Land Use Land Cover map to quantify the cover found in the home ranges of those northern bobwhite and to estimate their resource selection based on the data collected from the GPS tags. I was able to classify northern bobwhite cover into typical canopy classes (bare, shrub, grass; mean overall accuracy = 91.47% ± 2.57; mean Kappa = 0.88 ± 0.03). I observed no significant 2nd or 3rd order habitat selection during the first winter. In the second winter I observed selection for shrubs (Wi = 1.1 ± 0.64) and against grasses (Wi = 0.59 ± 0.21). My results suggest caution is warranted in selection of new sensor and harness pairings, and that while solar GPS tags may not affect movement-based questions, their use may bias survival related questions. Additionally, UAVs may fit a needed role in timely data collection, but their use should be matched with the appropriate spatial and temporal scale needed to answer the specific research question.