The northern bobwhite reintroduction project is one of many examples of efforts currently being undertaken by UNT staff, faculty, and students to reintroduce wildlife species that have been extirpated from the native environment due to habitat fragmentation at the Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area, or LLELA.
Tim Kolb, a quail rancher in Van Zandt County, has generously donated quail to LLELA researchers for their reintroduction project for several years now. UNT biologists Dr. Jeff Johnson, Dr. Jim Bednarz, and Dr. Ken Steigman worked alongside both graduate and undergraduate students to color-band, box, and transport the recent donation of one hundred quail. Five groups of twenty birds each were banded with different colored bands for tracking and each group was released in a separate area of the nature refuge.
The project's success relies on students and LLELA volunteers to assist in monitoring survival rates and habitat usage by listening for quail calls and observing birds when encountered. Taylor Wheat, a student studying with Dr. Jim Bednarz, is tracking each of the five color-banded groups for special problems project hours this semester. Her work requires early morning field hours when the birds are most active. She has already been successful on several outings spotting groups of quail and is recording all numbers sighted and the band color of each group.
The ultimate goal is to have a high enough survival rate throughout the year that at least a covey (approximately a dozen birds) of quail survive to breed and nest in the spring and produce offspring. This is difficult to achieve because under natural conditions, only 20 % of wild quail populations survive each year due to predation and adverse environmental factors. Thus successful reproduction is critical to maintain local isolated quail populations.
LLELA is a precious resource to the DFW residents and University of North Texas researchers and students; the area hosts countless activities and opportunities for the public to engage and interact with nature. Read their Fall newsletter for more information about events and volunteer hours, and consider making a donation to support the prairie and wildlife restoration projects by contacting Meghan Dours in the College of Science.