Have you ever heard that whistled call of "bob-white" in a grassy field or piney woods? You may have heard that distinctive song, but it's likely that you did not see a Northern Bobwhite. Their dappled plumage gives them excellent camouflage.
The birds forage in groups and scurry between cover area and will burst into flight if alarmed. Northern Bobwhite populations declined by 82% between 1966 and 2010, one of the most dramatic declines in the U.S. New Jersey Audubon and others are attempting to restore Northern Bobwhite quail to New Jersey. Bobwhites have been in sharp decline throughout the past half-century, likely owing to habitat loss and changes in agriculture, and they are an increasingly high priority for conservation.
The northern bobwhite, Virginia quail or (in its home range) bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) is a ground-dwelling bird native to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It is a member of the group of species known as New World quails (Odontophoridae).
The name "bobwhite" derives from its characteristic whistling call. Despite its secretive nature, the northern bobwhite is one of the most familiar quails in eastern North America because it is frequently the only quail in its range.
The Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative in NJ is dependent upon: (1) areas of high quality habitat and (2); the translocation of true wild birds, not pen raised, with both factors providing significant advantage in the face of severe storm events.
The release site at Pine Island has been stewarded through the implementation of a Forest Stewardship Plan, creating patches of young forest habitat suitable for quail and rich in cover and food resources. In addition, the wild birds are known to more quickly adapt and yield offspring that also exhibit innate survival instincts.
Fossil records show that quail-like birds existed at least a million years ago, but their appearance in most of the northern states across their range probably did not occur until sometime after retreat of the last glacier, approximately 10,000 years ago. Over the last 10,000 years serve storm events obviously have occurred and through it all the Bobwhite has persisted.
Project researcher Kaili Stevens tracking the Bobwhite at Pine Island.
For more on the Quail Project see NJ Audubon's Quail webpage.
Help continue this effort by donating at bobwhite.njaudubon.org