Local club has goal to protect quail nests

Published 9:05 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

Bird fans of a feather will flock together tonight at Oakwood Lodge as Quail Forever holds its third annual banquet.

The Covington County chapter of Quail Forever is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving habitat for quail in the Conecuh National Forest, Blue Springs Wildlife Management Area and Geneva State Forest Wildlife Management Area.

Tonight’s banquet, which begins at 6 p.m., will help raise money to restore habitat for quail and other upland wildlife on local public lands.

“We’re all about improving habitat for quail,” said Philip Crow, president of the local chapter. “By doing that, you also improve the habitat for other upland species like songbirds. Depending on what biologist you talk to, they’ll say that the population of quail has decreased somewhere from 60-70 percent over the last 30 years.”

Crow said many of the chapter’s members and banquet attendees are hunters, but not all.

“We’ve heard from people who are in their older age, and they just want the chance to hear one last quail song before they die,” he said. “We’re doing everything to try and save these birds. I’d hate to see them end up on the endangered species list or something like that.”

The local chapter of Quail Forever was founded in October 2004, with roughly 40 quail enthusiasts attending the first meeting. Since that time, and as a result of the funds raised from the first two annual banquets, the local chapter has been able to make progress toward its goal of improving quail habitat.

“We’ve been planting legumes and some native species,” Crow said. “These plants provide brood cover and also have a seed that the quails like to eat. In some areas, we may try to plant some native grasses that the quails use for nesting. There are still a lot of things we’d like to do, we just don’t have the money yet.”

Crow said one of the unique characteristics of Quail Forever is that 100 percent of the chapter’s banquet proceeds go directly into local habitat improvements.

“Some other conservative groups might take a cut of the proceeds and send them to national headquarters or to other areas,” he said. “Quail Forever is not like that; we get to keep all of our money and use it here locally. We like to say that if the birds aren’t migrating, then the dollars shouldn’t migrate, either.”

Crow added that Covington County’s ecosystem fits well with the habits of quail and similar birds.

“I think what we’re trying to do fits well with what the Conecuh is doing, trying to bring back the longleaf (pine) and the wiregrass,” he said. “I think it’s the brooding habitat, the weed thatches, that we most need to improve. Years ago, you might have seen as many as six fields that have weeds grown up to where the quail can brood, and now you’re lucky if you can find one.”

For more information about Quail Forever, contact Crow at 222-7232.