Raising quail has been a huge learning experience. The original plan was to begin with the native Bobwhite quail but I couldn’t find any to purchase. Instead I started with the coturnix introducing them to a lifestyle on the ground.
It wasn’t until several months into the process that I ran into an issue with one of my coturnix contracting a rare parasite.
I went to the internet to research and the discovery was helpful it also led me to learning the cause of the Texas Bobwhite quail decline.
Much later, I realized the Texas quail decline was a popular topic among fellow Texans.
Hunters and Fire Ants
The underlining question is, “What happened to the Texas Quail?” I get asked this all the time; before I can say a word most assume it’s either the hunters fault or those nasty fire ants.
Let me explain why it’s not the hunters and fire ants. Hunters have been around for hundreds of years; over time the number of hunters has declined. Quail Hunting season in Texas is October 31 – February 28. This leaves the quail a good eight months to repopulate if they can survive during those off months.
Quail lay eggs between April – October; one female bobwhite can lay up to 100 eggs per season. During this time they’re growing their flock; this is also when our bug population is at the greatest level.
Fire ants are not native to Texas; they’ve been here since the 1950’s. They were imported from South America in the 1930’s through the port of Mobile, Alabama.
Fire ants attack dead carcass and most quail have the instinct to stay away from fire ants. They will move their nest to a new location if ants invade their space. Quail can be particular about where they nest, their preference is tall grass or under shrubs.
What’s happening to these beautiful birds? Think parasites – specifically the parasitic eye worm contracted from crickets, not all crickets are carriers.
TTU is researching the effects of cecal worms and toxic metals like lead and cadmium. If you want to learn more I encourage you to read Dr. Ronald J Kendall’s findings. Their research has linked heavy spring rains and summer drought conditions in the same year to be a major factor.
The Wildlife Toxicology Lab of Texas Tech University has been granted millions of dollars to study the quail decline and seem pretty determined to come up with a fix.
I’m not sure how they plan to do this; realistically treating wild birds in their natural environment would be extremely difficult and costly.Taking a more pro active approach may be a better solution. What can you do?
Be Pro Active – Raise to Release
If you’ve met me or attended my Quail workshops you know that I’m passionate about raising quail. Mainly it’s because I’ve discovered enjoyment along the way and I’m fascinated by these birds.
The opportunity to give back and share what I’m doing is a neat experience that has helped me grow as a person. When I meet others who have that same desire to be pro-active it’s energizing.
Even if you only want to raise quail for yourself, at some point one or two will escape it’s difficult to avoid because these birds move fast. Whether you live in the country or suburbs you can raise native bobwhite quail for the same purposes as I have without spending millions of dollars to make a difference.
It’s no secret I love country living and if you want to release quail I suggest you take your birds outside the city limits in an open country field. When I decided to release a few quail I started in our garden, mainly because I had a hard time gathering them.
Opening the door and watching them leave one by one was easier and peaceful to watch. They eventually did leave and some back to visit.
The other day they all came back; many flocked to the front yard. Sometimes they take off to the field behind us or over to our neighbors open 20 acre hay field. They’re thriving and doing fantastic with hundreds of nearby acres to roam.
I keep a water container in the garden that is always filled with a tad of organic apple cider vinegar, this helps clean out their system naturally. Occasionally I leave feed but not enough to interfere with their lifestyle.
Anybody can do what I’m doing and the only way to truly increase the Texas quail population is to raise and release. Releasing healthy birds back to nature is a simple way to give back what sometimes we humans take for granted.
If you’re pondering the idea of raising quail get the book – Quail Getting Started. This is a beginner’s guide to raising quail naturally on the ground.