I am often asked why we put so much time and effort into educating landowners and the public about bobwhite quail. My response is inspired by the quote by Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
Those that have experienced the call of the bobwhite or have had the pleasure of watching a dog on point understand the love of this small bird. But with the declines in quail populations across its range, many do not. Those that do not understand often question why managing for bobwhites matters. Why not focus on some other species or does all this work really amount to anything? This is where biologists must become teachers and educate others about how creating habitat for bobwhites impacts so many other species, many of which are in peril, and about how important this little bird is to the culture and economics of many areas. Specifically, here in Georgia, we can now point to successes that have come about through the hard work of staff and many partners to show why quail are important and the benefits for many plants, animals, and other natural resources.
Through the efforts of the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Bobwhite Quail Initiative, NBCI, Quail Forever, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners, quail restoration is beginning to work. Monitoring efforts that were standardized through NBCI’s Coordinated Implementation Program help us demonstrate this success on both public and private lands in Georgia. NBCI provides a place to house all this data and helps fund research that can examine those results and provide feedback on what is and isn’t working. The NBCI Technical Committee (formerly the National Bobwhite Technical Committee) allows us to easily connect with other agencies and partners to discuss these results, share potential solutions, and hear about the newest programs and research. Our partners also help us teach others to understand the importance of bobwhite quail, how protecting them helps so many other species, and to share of our love of the bobwhite and upland habitat.
The Bobwhite Quail Initiative spent years working across the state with a very small staff. There is more work than could ever be completed by such a small group, but we were making small strides. Talking with other states, we learned ways to expand our reach and were able to connect with partners that allowed us to bring on more staff. This allows us to reach even more landowners and impact more acres each year. I believe that these partnerships are greatly improving the impacts we are having across the state, and the quail numbers are reflecting that. It definitely takes a village to make landscape-scale improvements happen.
One of the great pleasures of this job is hearing from someone that has heard or seen quail on their property for the first time in years. Last summer, I received a call from a gentleman in the extreme northwest corner of Georgia where we are always being told that quail no longer exist. He had just flushed a covey of young birds and was listening to them call. You could hear the excitement in his voice and could almost see him smile through the phone. That passion is contagious and, thankfully, is spreading. What better legacy to have than to be a part of the restoration of such an iconic species?
State Quail Coordinator, Game Management
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division