CEED Releases Tick-Eating Quail

Jul 24, 2020 | Bobwhite Quail, Community Programs

On a hot Saturday, July 18th, Ranger Eric Powers and small group of Boy Scouts released 16 Northern Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) on Brookhaven and Suffolk County open-space and preserve land managed by the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery (CEED).  Powers is Program and Site Director for CEED, and has worked to reintroduce Bobwhite Quail to Long Island for nearly 20 years. 

Northern Bobwhite Quail populations on Long Island were drastically reduced by loss of habitat and predation by non-native predators, especially feral and pet cats. By releasing juvenile birds all over Long Island, biologist Powers and CEED hope to build up a self-sustaining population.

Not only does this restore a beloved native, whose “bob-white” call was once commonly heard throughout Long Island, but because the birds eat many small bugs they find at ground level, they are an effective natural tick control. This will help protect people from tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease.

In most years, Powers and CEED help dozens of local schools and libraries hatch bobwhite quail eggs as part of a unique science and biology program or their regular life cycle studies unit.  By studying a local species, the students get a much deeper understanding about the interconnectedness of our ecosystem as well as the impacts we have on our environment, both negative and positive.  The chicks are then raised by CEED volunteers and when they are about 10-12 weeks old, the students then get the thrill of watching the quail they hatched scoot off into woods and fields to live out their lives and hopefully eat up a bunch of ticks!  Over the course of about 17 years, Powers has helped raise and release more than 2,000 quail a year.  And in many places, the distinctive bobwhite call can once again be heard.

The challenges of the pandemic and the closing of schools have reduced this year’s program participation, but quail were released at CEED and three other sites in July.  We wish them luck!

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