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The masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) once inhabited restricted areas in southern Arizona and middle Sonora, Mexico. It probably never was a widespread and abundant bird. Ornithologists discovered this race in 1884, presumably during its final decline in Arizona due to overgrazing and a series of droughts. . It was gone from Arizona by 1900. Apparently the bird was not seriously threatened in Sonora until the 1940's when the cattle industry increased there. Only small and scattered populations remain in Sonora today. Although behavior of the masked bobwhite is similar to that of the closely-related eastern bobwhite (C. v. virginianus), the desert variety prefers a mesquite-grassland habitat at elevations of from 1,000 to 4,000 feet, has a later and shorter nesting season, and has more striking sexual plumage. The male's black head and 'robin's red' breast readily identify the bird. Average annual precipitation in the heart of its Sonoran habitat is 13.5 inches, with 75 percent of that occurring during the 3-month period of July through September. Foods consist of small weed and grass seeds, supplemented with invertebrates and green vegetational growth during the summer rainy season. Early attempts at reintroduction of masked bobwhites into Arizona failed. Experiments on propagation and reestablishment and a life history study are currently being carried out by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife in cooperation with the Arizona Fish and Game Department.
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Federal Government Series
Review of literature on the endangered masked bobwhite