Quail and Canaries....What?
Are the Northern Bobwhite Quail the Small Game Population's Coal Miner's Canary?
I believe the plight of the Eastern Northern Bobwhite Quail just may be one of first indicators of what to expect for the future of our other small game populations.
I grew up Way Way Down South in the once upon a time Heart of Bobwhite Quail County. Prior to 1975 our covey finds where numerous and would usually be within the boundaries of cut Milo, Lespedeza and Soy Bean fields etc. A laid back relaxed hunt was usually the norm. Then ever so slowly, after 1975, we began locating more and more of our coveys in Dense Protective Covers such as Honeysuckle and Blackberry Thickets etc. The heavier protective cover was creepingly becoming more productive than the more open bean and grain fields and our covey finds where fewer and fewer. It is important here to note that there had been no significant changes in the habit of the areas hunted or surrounding areas during the time frame I am referencing. Changes are slow in some areas down South.
The Quail's habitat preference change and their dwindling numbers was in spite of DDT being banned in the US in 1972. DDT had been cited as being extremely detrimental to most all Bird Species and other Wildlife. It is my understanding DDT can take approx. 15 years ,give or take, to break down in the environment. Seems to me by now, if DDT was the or a major detrimental factor in our Game Bird decline, an increase in Bobwhite numbers would have been documented instead of the reverse; unless, there was another unknown cause at work along with the much publicized and ever increasing small game habitat loss.
Did you know?:
1. Protection was enacted in 1972 for Birds of Prey and in the same year the United States Banned the use of DDT.
2. A Hawk’s life span in the wild is approx. 17-20 years and has few if any predators other than man.
3. A pair of Hawk’s lay on average 4 eggs to hatch per year; therefore 1 pair creates 2 more pair. Then we have 3 pair that will be doing the same thing and then we have 9 pair and on and on. Much like an extremely lucrative compound interest rate we would all like to enjoy on our savings accounts and they have had over 40 years to multiply.
Hawks, "Chicken Hawks as they were once called in my neck of the woods", were slaughtered and hung on fences for all to see, a some what dismal but true historical fact. The old timers didn't take kindly to the Hawks snatching up their Sunday Chicken Dinners.
Rosalie Barrow Edge, a raptor conservationist and New York socialite known as the "indomitable hellcat", was the Founder of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary located in Pennsylvania. She was determined to stop what she considered the senseless slaughter of Birds of Prey for the Sport and benefit of the Small Game Hunting Community and Market Hunters. As I understand her reasoning, she felt nature's balance was off track and she wanted things brought back in balance.
If it were possible to calculate the reproduction numbers of Birds of Prey, small nest molesters and other larger fur- bearing predators, starting in 1972, the decline of the Quail and other Upland Bird populations would appear to have proportionately gone right along with their Predator's population increases. It is not rocket science folks, more predators means more food is required for their survival. Right! OR Wrong!......?
Now days, when I am in the outdoors, I tend to always see or hear some species of Hawk and end up seeing or hearing Zero Quail. Rosalie passed away in 1962. I wonder what her opinion of the balance would be now in 2013? It seems to me that Rosalie's goal has been achieved and then some.
I don’t necessarily advocate open season on Birds of Prey or lay the entire blame on them; however, nature's methods of balancing it's self can be extremely brutal when predator populations begin to out weigh their food sources. Are supplemental feeding programs in the near future for Avian Predators? Whoa.....!
When I first heard of the "Surrogator by Wildlife Tech." and it's intended purpose, I thought that hope had come at last. Here was a tool and rearing methodology to get past the problems created by the nest molesters and have the stocked birds living wild and imprinted to their surroundings, with very little human contact involved. Finally an opportunity to stock Birds that would have similar flight characteristics and behavior of true Wild Birds. I though it could possibly be like our put and take Trout and Striped Bass programs; however, I was soon to realize that even though the Surrogator worked well in the Wide Open Mid West States, such as Kansas, it did have it's problems in our Eastern Forested States. I believe since "Many More Available Perch Sites Exist in the East for the Flying Predators" Raptors are at the top of the problem list for the Surrogator. Heart Break.....!
These days when I have conversations with folks under 35 years old concerning Quail most say they have never even heard a Bob White’s intoxicating call or experienced the "rush" of being in the middle of a 20 Bird Wild Covey Flush. Nearly all of these folks I talk with readily accept the only reason for the near extinction of the quail in the Eastern United States as being due to loss of adequate small game habitat.
I realize the political issues associated with obtaining a revision on the Federal Treaties, to allow some sort of management strategy to be enabled for these Birds of Prey, would be darn near impossible if not totally impossible. I should spend my time. like most other dedicated small game enthusiast, trying to come up with better air raid shelters for our Upland Birds than sitting around moaning and whimpering about the condition my favorite past-time's condition is in.
I apologize for the lengthy post it's only due to my passion running a muck for Upland Birds and Bird Dogs and the fact that it is Deer Season and I can't get out and introduce the Pups to the most tenacious and UN-yielding of all our Game Birds, that wonderful survivor of the wild "The Magnificent Ruffle Grouse".
If it weren't for Bird Dogs and Upland Game Birds I would be just another Bored Old Man!