County Plans to Bring Native Bobwhite Quail Back to Montauk

Suffolk County has a plan to bring the near-extinct bobwhite quail, once a common sight, back to Montauk County Park. 

The Suffolk County Parks Department is partnering with the Third House Nature Center to establish a sustainable population of tagged bobwhite quail, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced last week. The first tagged quail will be released in the park on Aug. 11, and the public is invited to attend.

Earlier this year the county began a five-year plan to reintroduce the quail, according to a press release from the county executive's office. The county purchased an incubator and 180 eggs from two regional breeders. Officials will release tagged quail at four locations throughout the park each year for the next five years.

The plan calls for the first two dozen juvenile quail to be released at Third House on Aug. 11, four months after the initial batch of eggs went into the incubator. Each quail will have a personalized leg band. 

The survival rate for the quail is anticipated to be low, according to Ed Johann, the president of the Third House Nature Center, who added that more quail will be released later this summer to help establish viable breeding colonies. 

“Suffolk County Parks are rich with cultural history and vast natural beauty and a major part of preserving what makes our parks such a special place to visit is the diverse native species that inhabit these areas,” Mr. Bellone said in the statement. “I applaud Third House Nature Conservancy for their commitment to reinvigorating our native quail population and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this exciting partnership."

Jessica James, the manager of the Montauk Quail Restoration Project said in the press release that quail are omnivorous. "Besides eating greens and seeds, they are stealthy and effective hunters, scouring the grasslands and thickets for bugs. Could there be a correlation between the frightening rise in the local tick population and the demise of the bobwhite?”

Officials said it is not clear what is to blame for the near extinction of the population over the last 20 to 30 years. As ground nesters, they are easy prey, particular for feral cats.