The State of the Bobwhite Quail is …

“What are you prepared to do?”

The dying Sean Connery, to Kevin Costner, in The Untouchables.

The state of the bobwhite quail is …

  • declining;

  • in every single state across its range;

  • over short, medium and long-term periods;

  • without exception.

The NBCI released the State of the Bobwhite report, consolidating for the first time up-to-date status and conservation information across all 25 states in the core bobwhite range (see announcement and report on  This report is a spin-off tribute to the national “State of the Birds” report issued by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (

The State of the Bobwhite report contains 3 major parts:

1.         Status and conservation reports, nationally and from all 25 NBCI states;

2.         Selected results from a bobwhite conservation self-assessment by all 25 NBCI states;


3.         The first NBCI “Call to Action,” with priorities for progress over the next year.

NBCI staff debated how much gloomy news to provide in the report, concerned that the full, unvarnished truth might be overwhelming and turn people away.  We decided to pull no punches; the severity and urgency could not otherwise be conveyed.  Besides, anything less wouldn’t be credible to all those who see the problem with their own eyes in their states.

There are bright spots.  Our solid scientific foundation on bobwhite biology, ecology and management is an essential requisite.  From that launching pad, bobwhite conservationists have finally pulled our act together across 25 states, with vision, strategy, internal organization and infrastructure. 

The number of states seriously gearing up to tackle the quail problem is steadily growing.  An expanding array of success stories in several states demonstrates that well-managed land still can produce wild quail in abundance. 

Finally, we have a priceless asset – passion.  Bobwhites evoke the kind of lifelong passion that can make grown men choke up, reminiscing about their fondest quail hunting memories.  On this solid foundation of assets stands the capability to make a difference.

Call  To Action

 Now that the NBCI has starkly laid out the bleak range-wide situation for all to see, what are we prepared to do?  To kick-start progress, the NBCI Management Board issued its first “Call to Action” in the State of the Bobwhite report, identifying timely quail conservation priorities at national, state and local levels.  The Call to Action is not sound-bite rhetoric; it is a serious leadership role and tactical step in a long-term strategy.  Key roles and opportunities are identified for all who care enough to get involved right away.  The NBCI Management Board calls upon:

  • USDA to become a more positive, and less detrimental, force for native grassland                                   conservation;

  • States to prioritize, step down and publicize the NBCI 2.0;

  • Individuals to:

  • join and get active with a grassland habitat organization;

  • speak up in support of your state’s quail initiative; and

  • ask Congress to support agricultural conservation for the public’s wildlife.

As Director of the 9-year-old NBCI, I take the bleak status of bobwhites personally, even though it’s a half-century-old problem.  The State of the Bobwhite report makes clear this is gut-check time for everyone who cares … while there is time.


‘Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven…’

“Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to go today” – I’m not sure who that quote is attributed to, but it is often good for a laugh. I’ll try a similar one as I see it relating to quail – “Everyone wants to reverse the quail decline, but no one wants to do anything about it today.”

We live in a world where many of us are used to relying on others to do things for us. This BLOG is not meant to be any kind of a political statement. I’m a moderate and I won’t go into my beliefs. Who’d care anyway? But we all tend to sit back and say, “Let the state or the federal government take care of it.” Well when it comes to quail recovery, when one refers to the “state agency” what that often boils down to is one or two beleaguered quail coordinators, a few other agency staff, a few partner agencies and a team of a dozen or two volunteers, trying to do it all. Well here is a news flash for you, if quail go extinct, YOU are to blame, not the state. Get up and do something today!

“What can I do to help?” you ask.  Sounds like my daughter saying to me “Daddy, I’m bored, there is nothing to do.” To which I reply, “boring people are bored, use your brain, look around you, don’t expect the world to do it all for you.” So you won’t think I am a terrible Dad, I usually also offer a few ideas and try to show her how, if we use a little initiative, we can always find some fun things to do.

So to the point – here is a short list for you to jump start your desire and get you past a lack of gumption – that is what it all boils down to. How bad do you want it?

  1. Learn about the problem and spread the word to every neighbor and friend you have. If you are in Virginia, go to our website , if not find your agency’s site. Read, learn, share!
  2. Tell everyone you know about the NBCI website.
  3. Show up!!! By that I mean all state agencies have periodic meetings of their Boards that are open to the public. These generally have a time period dedicated for public comment. Let them know quail are important. Those who show up win.
  4. If you have land, find out how to manage it and talk to your neighbors. See if they are interested. Quail management benefits do not accrue equally with each additional acre managed. There is a threshold that, when reached, efforts really begin to pay off in an exponential fashion. 100 acres – OK – quail maybe? 500 acres – now you are getting up some speed, 1000 acres – Yes!!!! 2000 acres –Wow!!! You have guaranteed yourself a long term quail population. In Virginia we call this a “quail quilt” – landowners “sow” together smaller pieces of land into a useful quail quilt. Join our QMAP program for more details (
  5. If you are a seasoned quail hunter, consider hosting or organizing a “how to become a bird hunter”  workshop.  Check with your state quail biologist – they’ll be willing to help.
  6. Join a conservation NGO (non-governmental organization). Many exist – the most notable for quail are (in alphabetical order): the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Upland Wing, Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, and the Quail and Upland Wildlife Foundation (websites on the NBCI website). Each has their own unique features, visit their websites, make a decision and join one, or two – no one says you can’t join them all.
  7. Take a kid SMALL GAME hunting. It is not all about deer. Young people need variety and excitement, they desire action. Whether it s squirrels, rabbits, dove, quail or woodcock – get them out there and active.

More next time!

Are We Ready for Success?

You can’t handle the truth! … Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise, in the movie, “A Few Good Men.”


Every person taking the time to read this blog wants earnestly to do their part to help restore abundant bobwhites and grassland birds, and their habitats.  That dedication to the resource is not in question.  What I do wonder lately is whether bobwhite conservationists are really ready for success.

I get asked weekly if the NBCI is “successful,” if there is real hope for quail.  The Initiative is, after all, almost 10 years old.  I can credibly cite a long and profound list of improvements in the energy levels, activities, organization, infrastructure, policy improvements, vision, strategy, capacity and profile of bobwhite conservation (e.g., see the “NBCI Accomplishments and Milestones” fact sheet at ).  These are important and necessary steps that add real value to, and enable, full-speed implementation of the NBCI.

But what people really want to know is “has the NBCI succeeded anywhere in restoring sustainable, huntable populations of wild quail?”  That question is harder to answer – not because there isn’t lots more quail habitat restoration happening now than before.  Not because quail habitat restoration isn’t working.  But because we are afraid of ourselves.

Success breeds success.  An initial trickle of successes will stimulate more successes.  Eventually a growing stream of quail restoration success stories across the country can fuel a burgeoning movement.  People want to be part of and to invest in winning propositions.  Building this positive feedback loop is vital for the long-term viability, sustainability and growth of the NBCI; indeed, for simply keeping hope alive.





…or, go get that puppy and become a bird hunter now!

The old saying, “Timing is everything,” is one of those that seems wise because it can be used in just about every situation – good or bad. In short how would you argue against it?

“If old Dave hadn’t a left early, he wouldn’t be laid up in the hospital and could still hunt.” While across town, Jimbo laments, “Man, if we had only left a few minutes earlier we’d a missed all this wreck traffic and gotten to the game on time.”

 I try not to think about “what ifs”, and “if only I had ofs.” Lordy be, it is more a waste of time than waxing your truck before entering a mud bog rally. If you spend a lot time thinking about time, I’d say you have too much time on your hands.

I’d rather think of timing as in “there is no time like the present.” They say if you wait for the proper timing to have a kid, or buy a house, you’ll always be homeless and alone. I lost my best old friend and bird dog a few months ago. She never worried about the past or time. Now I am pondering when to buy a puppy. Notice I said when, not if. It is another timing question – and I don’t want to over think it.

I bought my last puppy about 7 years ago – 3 months before my daughter was born. Now what was I thinking? Truth is I wasn’t.