The Unicoi County High School agriculture department received a donation of Northern bobwhite eggs for its natural resources class from Paul Farnor, the founder of the local North Indian Creek Wildlife Preserve established to preserve this native quail.
Students in the natural resources class incubated the eggs in order to hatch, care for and release the quail into habitat at the Erwin Federal Fish Hatchery alongside some private land offering a newly formed habitat for the quail.
This project was a part of an initiative by the natural resources class to help reverse the decline in East Tennessee’s bobwhite quail population. The UCHS Agriculture department initiative aligns with one launched by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency called the Quail Restoration Initiative.
According to TWRA’s website, Northern bobwhite populations have declined dramatically range-wide since the 1950s, primarily due to landscape-scale habitat conversion and loss. The website also cites that some experts estimate that there has been a 60 to 80% decrease in the population of the Northern bobwhite in Tennessee since the 1950s.
The Northern bobwhite is a species of quail native to eastern North America. They species if currently considered to be a nearly threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to the quail’s rapid dwindling population. The quails are only 24 to 28 centimes in length with a 33 to 38 centimeter wingspan.
What are some ways that the public can help foster better habitat on private property for the area’s quails? Many experts recommend the following as steps to take to restore a healthy habitat for the quails.
First, incorporate native grasses. Such vegetation will provide excellent nesting structure for the quail.
Second, fields used for quail should be open at ground level with a canopy overhead. This allows the bobwhites to move easier, while still having the protection provided by the canopy.
Finally, properties that offer an array of diverse habitats for the quail will help them to flourish.
The UCHS agriculture department expressed gratitude for the donation of the quail eggs.
UCHS Natural Resources teacher Holly Rogers noted that North Indian Creek Wildlife Preserve founder Paul Farnor, along with Wayne Willams, provided invaluable advice and suggestions to the students in the high school program to ensure a successful incubation and hatching.
“Our students learned so much through the process of hatching and raising the quail,” Rogers added.
She also expressed that the students of her class are very thankful for the donation.
Rogers noted that the students enjoyed learning very valuable information while incubating, hatching, raising and releasing the quails.