Saturday, June 04, 2011

There be QUAIL!

Bobwhite photo by Dick Dennis
When I was a girl, growing up in a small rural community in southwest Ohio, the pert bob-bob-white of this bird could be heard any time you left the town limits. As a birder, however, it is a stellar day when I find Bobwhites now.  If you look for them online, be prepared for ads about rising quail, but there is good information on these sites as well. Apparently there is money to be had in these small birds.

They are the number 1 game bird in many states, but the main cause of their decline must certainly be habitat loss.  A quail range is a delicate balance of cropland, nesting cover, woodlands and fence rows or waterways which serve as travel lanes. Early explorers found quail only in prairie openings or around Indian clearings. Quail closely followed the ax and plow of early settlers, probably reaching their peak abundance about the time of the Civil War. Improvements in farm machinery resulted in larger fields, fewer fence rows and odd areas, and less living space for quail. Oddly, the Bobwhite range in some areas has been hurt because too much land has gone back to timber or has been converted to grasslands which do not support quail.

Bernheim Forest restored a large grassy area several years ago from mowed recreational fields to natives grasses and wildflowers.  Controlled burns keep weeds and trees under control.  In the last year or so, someone had a great idea of raising quail to be reintroduced here. Eggs are in an incubator in the Education Building, then moved to a protected fenced-in "coop" when they hatch.  Several releases have been made, but I haven't heard any guesses about the survival rates.

When we arrived at the Education Building this morning, prepared to teach a Birding Basics class to some of the volunteers, the first sound to greet me was bob-white! bob-white!  What a great way to start the day! While I set up the laptop and projector, Dick got photos of them, which I quickly added to the presentation.  Next week, an Audubon Society group from Owensboro, KY, is coming to Bernheim for an outing, and now I know where to look for these delightful little birds. They've decided that the bottlebrush buckeye trees, which grow branches completely down to the ground, provide wonderful shelter.  No hawk is going to get them here!


Jen said...

What cool birds! Thanks for sharing the video!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

I think Quail are such lovely birds and you showed themff so well. I have only seen on little family up at Clifty Falls, way many moons ago~