Monday, July 22, 2013

PA Quail on the comeback?

The call of the whip-poor-will and bobwhite quail have something in common.

No, they don’t sound remotely similar, and one emanates from the forest at night while the other rises from the fields during the day.

What they do have in common is they are both sounds that are seldom heard in Pennsylvania anymore, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission is hoping to bring at least one of the species back.

Northern bobwhite quail were relatively common in parts of the state - particularly agricultural areas, until the mid-1940’s. The population dropped in the 1950’s, made a recovery in the early 1960’s and then plummeted to the near non-existent levels of today. Habitat change - namely the loss of grassland and brushy areas, is to blame.

It’s a similar decline as the wild pheasant, but Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas are providing hope that pheasants can be brought back.

Can the same thing happen with wild quail?

That’s what the PGC wants to find out, and it recently finished a 10-year management plan for the bobwhite quail with the main goal to restore wild breeding populations in suitable habitat across the state.

The first step, according PGC game bird section supervisor Ian Gregg, is to review bird count data and find where, if anywhere, quail have been heard or seen. The agency will contract out that work, Gregg said, and then review the findings. The work is expected to begin by the end of this year.

“It could show us clusters or scattered areas of quail, or it could tell us we don’t have many wild quail left in the state,” he said.

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