Thursday Throw Down: Cats versus Bobwhite quails versus ticks

Written by on August 10, 2017 in Critters vs Humans vs Critters - No comments

Long Island biologists and educators  are testing a theory on whether quails can reduce the number of ticks and what role pet cats may be having on the population of the two species.

Ranger Eric started the study in 1999 as he noticed the population of ticks inexplicably rising.

Using his Field Biology training, he conducted the first BioBlitz events on Long Island, four BioBlitz’s in all. These records are archived at the NYS Biodiversity Institute.

By 2002, he had started asking teachers to switch to quail eggs for their incubation studies and then donate their chicks to be released as part of our study.

Within 24-hours of release, there was a noticeable drastic drop in tick numbers. But proving the correlation between the bobwhite quails release and the decline in ticks continues to be an ongoing challenge.

The study attempts to show that by restoring Quail habitat on Long Island and releasing native Northern Bobwhite Quail birds back into our local environment, that can be an effective way to reduce the numbers of ticks naturally, instead of using toxic pesticides.

Feral cats, as well as indoor-outdoor cats, also take a massive toll on our ground-dwelling birds, such as bobwhite quail.

Some people make the argument that it is because so many people now have indoor-outdoor cats that domestic felines have in fact largely wiped out our quail populations on Long Island which in turn eliminates the main tick predators and creating the high tick population.

Just a few months ago North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth didn’t know much about hatching eggs, but that’s all changed as she is now keeping her eye on a small batch of Northern Bobwhite Quail eggs being incubated at the North Hempstead TV Studio in Westbury.

The Northern Bobwhite Quail project is a pilot program designed by Ranger Eric Powers, the host of the NHTV’s nature show Off the Trail and assistance from Town employees, who will release the native birds back into the local environment, in order to effectively reduce the numbers of ticks naturally, instead of using toxic pesticides.

Watch the live Quail Cam here: www.northhempsteadny.gov/quailcam

When the eggs hatch, sometime later this month, the baby quail will be kept at the studio for about another two weeks, then transferred to a park in Suffolk County where they will mature further. In July the birds will be brought back to their place of birth and be released in the town’s 200 wooded acres across from the North Hempstead Beach Park and also along the Hempstead Harbor Trail. Their mission? To eat ticks.

The baby quail have hatched!

“Lyme disease is a very serious condition caused by deer ticks, which are prevalent in wooded areas and grasslands all over Long Island,” said the supervisor in an interview with the Long Island Weekly. “When I learned about the Northern Bobwhite Quail study I was very interested. The town is constantly on the lookout for natural methods we can use to control disease-causing pests that do not involved using toxic chemicals. The fact that we also get to raise the quail ourselves and enjoy watching the eggs hatch, well that is just part of the fun.”

 

 

 

 

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Peg Fong

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