Quail Restoration Project
In the spring of 2018, Third House Nature Center (THNC) began a program to restore the northern bobwhite quail population on Suffolk County land in Montauk. For many years, the number of Bobwhite has been on the decline. Once a common sight in Montauk, Bobwhite are now a rarity, and many folks have never even seen one in the wild.
Quail have historically occupied an important niche in Montauk's ecosystem, providing a food source for foxes and raptors. And some posit that the decline in quail may have something to do with the exploding tick population, as quail are voracious consumers of ticks.
The THNC project began with the purchase of an incubator and 180 eggs from two Eastern breeders, one in PA and one in GA. Quail are brooded under heat for the first couple of weeks and then moved outdoors to secure pens in order to acclimate them before their release into the wild at about 12 weeks of age. Several County sites have been identified as release areas, and these sites will be receiving areas for Bobwhite over multiple hatches and over a 5-year period. In order for the quail to be able to establish natural breeding groups it is important to continue releasing them in the same locations year after year; due to predation and other factors, the survival rate of Bobwhite in the wild is low - perhaps as low as 10%.
In keeping with THNC's mission of environmental education programming, the group shared some quail eggs with Montauk School science teacher Todd Brunn so that his students could hatch and raise the quail as part of his science curriculum.
The first two dozen juvenile quail were released at Third House in August of 2018, with releases continuing through fall of 2019. Stay tuned for the upcoming release schedule starting in Spring 2020.
Press about the project can be found at the links below: