The distinctive whistle a quail makes that sounds remotely like the words ‘bob white’ used to ring across the Southland.

Now, not so much, but that’s one negative social and recreational trend that’s changing.

Recent results of the combined efforts of wildlife enthusiasts around the country indicate the northern bobwhite quail is making a slow, but steady comeback in the Southeast.

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), headquartered at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., has been instrumental in bringing together national attention and wildlife action groups to focus on the challenge of bringing bobwhite quail back across the country.

The NCBI contends, if its habitat management goals were fully implemented in key priority landscapes in key states, it could add 4.6 million coveys of quail, or an astounding 55 million more birds annually.

“The original 2002 NBCI changed the game for bobwhite conservation and grasslands conservation overall in many ways; this revised NBCI will raise our game,” says NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

“The second edition announced recently goes light years beyond the initial paper-based effort in 2002. This new NBCI is a dynamic, interactive, web-connected geographic information system created by an innovative combination of satellite imagery, landscape databases, professional biological judgment and knowledge of priorities in rural communities,” he adds. 

“This latest NBCI program is an initiative by the states, for the states. And it’s really just the beginning at a truly range-wide scale,” McKenzie says.

Virginia is one of the key quail landscapes identified by conservationists and the program is working, according to wildlife biologists and quail enthusiasts alike.

Culpepper County Va., is one of six target counties in the state. Fredricksburg, Va. wildlife biologist Mike Budd says, “Virginia, like all southern states, has seen a slow, but steady decline in quail populations over the past 20 years.

“Year to year the decline may not seem spectacular, but taken over a 20-year period of time, the loss of quail populations has been dramatic,” Budd says.

What’s good for farming may not always be so good for quail, he adds So-called clean farming is a contributing factor to the ground dwelling bird’s decline. In clean farming, Budd explains, brush hedgerows are usually eliminated and fallow fields are often mowed. Those kinds of practices reduce the quail’s ideal habitat.