Quail

In our 300 acre rural neighborhood, southeast of Hypoluxo and Jog roads, quail were common until 10 years ago when too much land clearing drove them off. The whistled “bob…bob-white” was a common sound in the spring and summer nesting season. Coveys were seen in the fall and winter and broke up with the start of spring breeding. It was amazing that this year-round resident was seldom seen or heard during long stretches of the year.

The 10 inch tall Northern Bobwhite Quail was once common, but has lost 65 percent of its population in the last 20 years and is now classified as threatened. It ranges from southeast Ontario, Canada to Central America.

The removal of hedgerows by large scale agriculture has reduced quail habitat. They eat seeds, insects, fruits, leaves, flowers, acorns, roots and tubers. A water source is no problem since they drink morning dew off of vegetation.

If you live west of town, you can provide habitat for quail and attract or reintroduce them to your area. This may require cooperation with several neighbors to provide enough continuous land. Fields with a variety of native grasses and broad leaved herbs, scattered shrubs, pines and oaks will provide the food and cover needed to support quail.

Stop mowing and remove exotic pest plants to help start your habitat. Plant scattered native trees and shrubs. Encourage native grasses like broomsedge and other native herbs. Remember the beauty of the golden broomsedge swaying in the breeze last fall in our natural areas? This habitat is also good for painted buntings, loggerhead shrike, the sedge wren and others.

The softball sized nest of the bobwhite is built on the ground and lined with fluffy broomsedge grass and covered with surrounding vegetation to form a dome. Poison the fire ant nests so they won’t eat the chicks and keep Garfield inside. Prevent overgrazing and mow once during late fall or winter if needed.

Your new landscape should be beautiful and blend in with surrounding natural areas. This is the time to put up your purple martin nest box too. Don’t forget to look up the latest design changes at purplemartin.org.

Native shrubs and trees fruiting in January include: wild coffee, marlberry, beautyberry, dahoon holly, firebush, red maple and Spanish and white stoppers.

With a little human involvement, many species of plants, birds and other creatures will make a comeback. Take a look at your own yard and ask yourself if you have space to include wildlife habitat. Done right, your new planting will be pleasing to view and require less water and gas. It will come alive as birds and butterflies concentrate in their new found oasis.