Friday, October 17, 2014

Pennsylvania's Northern Bobwhite Quail
Saw this headline today, "Bobwhite Quail Close to Extinction in PA and NJ."  Having spent eight years of my career in eastern Virginia where I was stationed on a small state forest that had a quail habitat management area I saw the impacts habitat improvement can have on the population. Small things such as burning old fields, planting warm season grasses, and disking area on a 3 year rotation greatly improved the quail population.

We are celebrating the 3 year anniversary of the release of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s "Quail Management Plan." The mission of the Northern Bobwhite Quail Management Plan for Pennsylvania was to maintain and restore wild breeding populations of Northern Bobwhite Quail in suitable habitats.

“The northern bobwhite quail is one of the most popular game birds in North America. Its native range included most of the eastern United States north to southern Maine, southern New York, southern Ontario, central Wisconsin and south central Minnesota, west to very southeastern Wyoming, eastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, and eastern Mexico south to Chiapas. Twenty-two subspecies have been recognized. Since the mid 1960’s, the bobwhite’s range and populations have declined dramatically. Northern bobwhites were relatively common across southern Pennsylvania farmland and brush lands until about 1945. Populations declined rapidly between 1945-1955, but made a recovery in the early 1960’s. Since 1966, the range and populations of bobwhites have declined to the point that most counties in the commonwealth no longer have bobwhites as a breeding species.” (From PA Game Commission, Quail Management Plan, 2011)

In doing a quick internet search to see if anything existed on the current status of the management plan and quail populations I came across a number of interesting news articles but nothing current to provide us with an indication of the success or failure of the plan being implemented here. Unfortunately, this leaves us wondering…What is the current status of quail in Pennsylvania?  Has the management plan been working? Or, are the headlines correct and wild quail populations are close to extinction here in PA?

Bobwhite Quail Close to Extinction in Pa. and NJ
By Edward Colimore, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 12, 2014
Bill Haines Jr. used to see wild quail on his family's farm all the time when he was growing up. He heard their distinctive "bobwhite" calls and thought nothing of it. Fifty years ago, the small chicken-like bird thrived across parts of the state. Coveys of them were common. Hunters flushed them out by the scores while walking through brushy fields.

Now, their singing has all but stopped. The number of wild bobwhite quail has fallen off so precipitously that — except for small pockets — they're close to extinction in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and barely holding on in Delaware, wildlife ecologists say. Choked forests, paved roads, housing developments, herbicides, and pesticides have destroyed food sources and nesting grounds. The birds disappeared as their habitat disappeared.
Click here for the rest of the story.

These news releases may be of interest to you as well.  They are from 2011 when the quail management plan was released.

Can the bobwhite quail make a comeback in Pennsylvania?
By Marcus Schneck, October 05, 2011
The northern bobwhite quail – a familiar and popular species that even the experts are not sure still exists in the wild, non-stocked state in Pennsylvania – now has a management plan in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday approved an aggressive plan, which has a starting point of next July. Although quail can be found in many areas of Pennsylvania, no one seems certain if any of those birds are native to the state or the result of the estimated 60,000 to 70,000 pen-raised birds stocked by hunting dog enthusiasts across the state each year.
Click here for the rest of the story.

A life preserver for bobwhite quail?
By Ad Crable, September 12, 2011
The last time I heard the whistle of a bobwhite quail calling its own name in Lancaster County was at least 20 years ago. I was hiking through tall grass in a long-deserted farm that had become part of the Muddy Run pumped-storage reservoir project. I stopped dead and tried whistling back. Bob-bob-white. Memories of chasing coveys of quail over hill and dale with a pointer and shotgun on Illinois farmland as a young boy came rushing back. I've not heard one here since. That's because there are few wild reproducing quail left in Pennsylvania.
Click here for the rest of the story.

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