Just when I think I’ve run out of critters that will come to visit, someone new shows up. Wednesday we had some much-needed rain and the storm was ending. I glanced out the window that overlooks the backyard and I spotted a bird taking shelter under a wax myrtle. At first glance I thought it was one of the mourning doves but I realized it was a little too big. As it started to move, I noticed it was rather ROUND. I thought wow, it must be one of the quail.
I’ve seen quail once or twice in the yard but they never stay long enough to get a photo. I dug around for my camera and quietly opened the door. I tried to capture a photo but the darn thing move to behind another wax myrtle. As I stealthily got closer I saw that there were two and the pair waddled quickly toward the fence, apparently aware of my presence. I tried to quietly move and looked in the brush. Then I spotted them…off in the distance in my neighbor’s yard. For chicken-like birds that walk, these guys are FAST!
They are Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) a Near Threatened species (IUCN) because they are declining in most states. Of course this is largely due to loss of habitat via development. Their range is most of the eastern half of the U.S. I guess since they walk, it’s tough to get over those Rocky Mountains. There are too many subspecies to list. Note that the West Coast has it’s own genus of quail.
They have quite an array of calls and the territorial one is the basis for their common name. They also have a call which is suppose to sound like “hoy-poo”, but I don’t necessarily hear it that way…who DOES these translations into human??
They are ground birds, even in nesting situations. They eat plants. They are hunted as game birds. I hope they are smart enough to stick to the scrub area next door for nesting since Tanner, the English Setter would have the salt and pepper at the ready.
Florida Fish and Wildlife has a program in place to try to increase populations. Habitat restoration is a big part of this program and involves prescribed burning and other methods that at one time occurred naturally. This agency bringing them back seems an oxymoron given that they issue the hunting licenses and this species is still allowed to be hunted, albeit strictly regulated as far as bag limits. As an aside, I’m not a hunter myself, but I understand hunting and as long it is done for food, I don’t have a problem with it. (No hate mail please).
At any rate, I hope these two quail (and any of their friends) stick close to my habitat. I will leave some of the “grassland” area that I have been procrastinating doing the “after winter” mow (aha…FINALLY a valid excuse!). I’m hoping this will keep them happy and in the vicinity. Just down the block starts a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), where hunting occurs during a few weeks of the year. However, whenever a creature turns up at my place, I feel like they are my own and should be off-limits…that is except the rodents.
Note: Right after I published this article I was looking up Virginia Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana) as today’s choice for my “What Florida Native Plant is Blooming Today” series. I come to find out that it is a recommended species in Arkansas University’s “Bringing Back Bobwhites” publication. Perfecting Timing! ~~Loret
p.s. I hope all the moms out there have a delightful day this Sunday.
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