A Quail of a Morning

I woke up cold this morning…it was in the low 30’s outside and in the 50’s in the house. So I hopped into the hot tub out on the back porch to warm up a bit. As I sat quietly in the early morning light with steam rising around my head, I became aware of small movements nearby in the leaf litter under the oak and palm trees. I waited, watched…

Soon the movement revealed six beautiful bobwhite quail, scratching and bobbing along in search of seeds and fruit, darting here and there as the squirrels scampered near them hiding acorns for use later on. It is always a treat to look out on our backyard and see wildlife, but when the quail appear, it is that much more special. Bobwhite quail populations have been on the decline in the southeast. Indeed we used to see them often here at our home, but we are lucky to see a covey just two or three times a year these days. According to Tommy Hines, biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there has been a 70% decline in Florida bobwhite populations just since 1980, the year before we moved to Florida.

Bobwhites are listed as “Near threatened” on the ICUN RedList. They need open understory and grasslands not choked with nonnative grass species. Development, conversion of native land to intensive agriculture, and lack of fire/prescribed fire have led to their decline – along with predation by an ever-increasing abundance of feral cats.

So, this morning’s sighting was one of those special gifts. A nice way to begin the day, and a gentle reminder that we share this planet with other species and every action we take impacts not just our human selves, but them as well.

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