If you are of a certain age, you might recall hearing the iconic "bobwhite whistle" while you spent your summer days outside. This call isn't from just any bird but from the bobwhite quail.
Bobwhite quail breed from April to September, with mid-June to the end of July being their peak season - this is when you hear their calls. Once mating season is over and winter comes, bobwhite form social groups called coveys. You will find them roosting in a circle with each individual bird facing outward. In this formation, they are able to watch for predators 360 degrees around and have thermal protection.
Unique ways abound with bobwhite. From nesting to feeding, bobwhite quail will spend the majority of their lives on the ground. They thrive in early successional habitats - habitats with grassy, weedy and unkept areas around fields and forests. You might think this is a dangerous place for a bird, and you would be right. The bobwhite quail's average lifespan is less than a year; however, this bird has a high capacity for reproduction. When bobwhite quail chicks hatch, they are precocial, meaning they are fully formed and don't need the parents to feed them. The first few weeks of life, their diets consist of insects to gain protein for feather development, and the young birds eventually begin to eat mostly plant material. Once their feathers come in, male or female are easily identifiable. Like many other birds, bobwhite quail are sexually dimorphic, or the two sexes look different. Males have bright white stripes above and below their eyes, whereas females have light brown or tan stripes.
While they have a high capacity for reproduction, over the years the population of bobwhite quail has continued to decrease. In 2015, a statewide effort known as the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative was formed based on a plan the S.C. Department of Natural Resources wrote to restore populations to early 1980 levels. Since this time, we have seen an increase in bobwhite numbers year after year in our counts and surveys taken.
So what next?
We continue to work as a collective group of organizations with the purpose to restore the bobwhite quail population. But it's not just up to the organizations. This initiative needs dedicated individuals who want to help us reach this goal. From volunteers to landowners to donations, you and your family can get involved in so many ways to help this species thrive. To learn more about how you can be of service to the bobwhite quail, visit: www.dnr.sc.gov/quail/help.html.
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