Restoring Habitat and Re-Establishing Northern Bobwhite in the Pinelands of New Jersey -UPDATE

It was no joke that on April 1st 80 Northern Bobwhite quail were released in the New Jersey Pinelands on the Pine Island Cranberry Quail Release at Pine Island (PARKE)Company’s property.  Spread across seven treatment areas we welcomed the Northern Bobwhite back to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as we released the birds in sets of ten throughout areas of forest and grassland. Two groups of ten were released at one location given the availability of optimal habitat. 

The quail were captured in the wild in Georgia and traveled nearly 1,000 miles north to arrive at the release site.  Joining us for the release were project partners including Pine Island Cranberry, project collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

New Jersey Audubon has contracted the University of Delaware to provide research and monitoring support in the kaili at Pine islandform of two graduate students. Will Macaluso is working on the project in pursuit of his Ph.D and Kaili Stevens was brought onto the project as she works towards her Master’s Degree.

Since the release Will and Kaili along with their major Professor Chris Williams, Ph.D. have been on site almost daily tracking the quail. Each quail was outfitted with a radio transmitter fitted around their neck. The birds arrived in NJ with the transmitters attached, each broadcasting a unique radio frequency. Using a radio receiver and antenna each bird can be located and through the signal their location and status (alive or dead) can be determined. Tracking began immediately following the release and revealed the birds were sticking together in coveys and they remained within the general area of where they were released.

In the days and weeks following the release we did lose birds. Most of the mortality occurred within the first 20 days and has largely been attributed to avian predators. We believe one bird was taken by a weasel and a few birds had their collars come off. We also found that several birds appear to have died from stress. This was expected and the mortality that we have experienced overall is within the anticipated range that has been observed in other successful projects. The surviving number of birds is holding at 53 (25 males, 28 females). No mortality has been experienced since April 29th.

With the weather warming up and the vegetation cover filling in, we are now seeing birds shuffle around, individuals have been found to move between groups and a few birds appear to have paired up. Male birds have even been heard calling. We are anxiously awaiting evidence of nesting!

 To find out how to make a donation to the Quail project go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.  

 Photos by John Parke