Dear Bird Folks,
What has happened to all the bobwhite quail? They used to visit my yard all the time and now I never see them. What is the reason we don’t see them anymore?”
– Julie, East Orleans
It’s you Julie,
You are the reason we don’t see as many quail any more. It’s because of you and it’s because of me and it’s because of Stop & Shop and everyone who you see shopping there. You have heard it a million times, it is called loss of habitat. Where the quail used to breed is now stores, houses and espresso shops.
Quail are ground nesters and there is less and less ground for them to nest on. And when they do find a safe place to nest and raise chicks, the chicks have to deal with all the other wonderful things that we bring with us, like cats, dogs, kids and golf carts. Then, when young quail are old enough to fly, grownup humans shoot them for fun or sport, depending on whose spin you believe.
After the quail avoid all of us, the next thing they have to deal with are their native enemies, like owls, foxes, snakes, etc. I hate to sound negative, but the outlook for ground-nesting birds like quail, thrushes and whippoorwills is not great. Some birds, like cardinals and chickadees, thrive around people. They have been able to adjust to us and, in some ways, have benefitted from our presence. But birds like quail are more environmentally sensitive and their numbers drop as the human population increases.
The only thing we can do to help the bobwhites is work harder for open space, control our pets and try to get the town to build some kind of quail condo for all the homeless quail to move into. Now that would make for a fun town meeting.