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Bobwhites are back on Shelter Island

Shelter Island students, parents, and environmentalists participated in the “Bring Back Bobwhite” release of 1,000 quail around the Island this week in the Island’s many preserves — a total of 24 locations over a two-day period.

Within moments of leaving their boxes, the quail were busy wandering and feasting on insects, and drops of dew on the grasses. Sean Clark, one of the project’s founders, explained that they will settle into coveys of about 15.

Voracious consumers of ticks, the little birds were once a familiar sight on the Island, but their numbers have dwindled. In the wild it is estimated that, of all babies hatched, 10% will reach adulthood. Their biggest predators on the Island are hawks and house cats. Keeping cats in at night would be helpful, Mr. Clark said.

Mitchell Clark with some precious cargo. (Credit: Jim Colligan)

Islanders may recall that distinctive bobwhite call, now rarely heard as predators and destruction of their natural habitats have taken their toll.

According to Kenn Kaufman’s “Birds of North America,” the male bobwhite “whistle their name from fence posts, low branches…small flocks (coveys) run on the ground, hide in dense grass of brushy fields and open woods.”

While the goal is to be a 501c3 by year’s end, individuals can donate now through this link —


Teach the children well. (Credit: Jim Colligan.)

Organizers aim for several releases throughout the year. This recent batch of vet-checked quail traveled by ventilated trailer from Pennsylvania — hitting a bit of traffic in the city — we all know how that feels. Finally home, we welcome them and wish them much success.

(Credit: Jim Colligan)