Forty years ago, the distinctive call of the bobwhite quail could be heard throughout Virginia’s grasslands. Now, their call is fading — silenced by changing farm practices and land development that have led to the quail’s steep population declines. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscapes program has joined a nationwide effort to save this charismatic species and its habitat. Learn more about their surveys from Charlotte Lorick, outreach coordinator for Virginia Working Landscapes.
What is your favorite fact about bobwhite quails?
It’s hard for me to pick only one favorite thing, but what first comes to mind is their iconic ‘bob-white’ call. Standing in a meadow on an early morning survey and hearing that call truly makes my heart sing. It’s a nice reminder that working in the field of conservation, to me, involves connecting with nature through both the mind and the heart.
I encourage those who have not yet heard a northern bobwhite quail to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website and have a listen. Better yet, visit a national or state park! The National Park Service, our partner in this study, is doing a great job managing Manassas National Battlefield Park for quail habitat. You may just hear one during your visit.
Why is Virginia Working Landscapes studying them?
Bobwhite quail are one of many species of birds that scientists are concerned about. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers them to be a “near threatened” species. However, their populations are decreasing at an extraordinary rate. Since 1970, we have lost 78 percent of bobwhite quail across their range. With only 20 percent of the population remaining, every bird counts.
In particular, we’ve seen a steep decline in Virginia. There is a great need to understand and study these birds in our region. To do so, we are contributing to a nationwide effort led by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, to determine which strategies and land management practices are most effective to help quail populations make a comeback in Virginia and throughout their entire range.
Listen closely to hear the calls of the bobwhite quail during a recent survey conducted by Virginia Working Landscapes.