Bernheim Forest staff released bobwhite quail chicks today for the third consecutive year in an effort to reintroduce them to the forest.
Fifty six-week old bobwhite quails waited in a crate, surrounded by a crowd of curious children and adults. The doors were opened, but the chicks needed some coaxing. Finally, they took their first flight.
The birds used to be plentiful in the region, but have been a threatened species for decades.
For the past three years, the staff at Bernheim has been raising bobwhite quails from eggs and releasing them into areas restored to resemble their natural habitat.
Ronnie Moore, Bernheim’s natural areas manager, says the decimation of that habitat is one reason the quail populations began to decline.
“Back in the 60s, everybody got planting fescue everywhere and fescue is not good for wildlife whatsoever,” he said. “We went in and killed the fescue out, planted warm season grasses and wildflowers. It’s not only good for quail, but it’s good for turkeys, rabbits, deer, all kinds of wildlife.”
So far, more than 2,000 bobwhite quails have been released at Bernheim. The birds are beginning to thrive, and Moore says raising the chicks in an incubator and releasing them into the wild probably won’t be necessary after next year.