Male northern bobwhite quail in song (photo courtesy Tall Timbers Research Station)
(by John Parke, New Jersey Audubon)
New Jersey Audubon is embarking upon an ambitious effort to restore Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey. According to the data from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count, the Northern Bobwhite quail has suffered one of the most severe population declines of any North American bird (an approximately 82% decline in the last forty years). This decline, attributed to habitat loss through development, changes in agricultural practices, and predation has also been connected to the significant loss of the young forest habitat, especially in regions with overcrowded pine stands and fire suppression. Young forest (early successional habitat) is essential for nesting, resting, escape cover, and food resources for the Northern Bobwhite quail. States in the southeast, particularly Georgia and Florida, have had success rebuilding quail populations through forest stewardship activities, including thinning pine stands with mechanical and herbicide treatments in conjunction with prescribed burning. This not only provides the critical habitat needs for Northern Bobwhite, but also benefits other young forest species and increases overall forest health. Since 1996, Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida has shown that through forest stewardship the Bobwhite population was increased 10-fold, reaching as high as two bobwhites per acre in the fall.
Recognizing the similarity in habitat between southern pine forests and the New Jersey pinelands, New Jersey Audubon partnered with Pine Island Cranberry Company (a member of the NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council), to coordinate a Northern Bobwhite Quail restoration project utilizing the forest management treatments outlined in Pine Island Cranberry’s existing State approved Forest Stewardship Plan.
Pine Island Cranberry’s forest stewardship plan emphasizes long-term active forest management on a landscape scale, while enhancing a wide range of forest resources, wildlife habitat, and natural benefits (e.g., improved watershed heath).
“The key to this business is water,” said Pine Island Cranberry Company CEO, Bill Haines. “The protection of our water supply has protected this business from the beginning. That’s how this family