Hunting this threatened species is not the reason for its decline
When a species is red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature it is rare for it to be hunted.
But Michigan’s northern bobwhite is an exception.
The Michigan Audubon Society recently reported the northern bobwhite, commonly known as quail, is Michigan’s only bird that is both hunted and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, which identifies species at a high risk of extinction.
The quail hunting season in Michigan lasts three weeks from Oct. 20to Nov. 14, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It is only allowed in 27 counties.
However, hunting quail is not the reason the species’ population is low said Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist and program leader for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The reason the species is threatened is because of its declining habitat, said Stewart.
“We see some declines which are very clearly associated with habitat, not with the impact from hunting,” said Stewart. “Quail are pretty specific about their habitat needs…you (need to) have some good grasslands, you have to have some food plots and that has to be within their home range.”
Stewart said industrial construction is the main reason quail habitats are diminished. Michigan counties with some of the highest population in quail are Macomb, Wayne, St. Clair and Oakland, which are now mostly urban areas.
Purchasing a hunting license can benefit quail because the money received from license purchases goes to fund projects that rebuild quail habitats, said Stewart.
The Michigan Audubon Society agrees with the Department of Natural Resources but analyzes the quail’s rarity differently.
“The (Department of Natural Resources) measures how rare something is differently than what (the Michigan Audubon Society does),” said Tom Funke, the conservation director for the Michigan Audubon Society.
Funke said the society looks at multiple endangered or threatened species lists such as the blue, State of Michigan and federal list and interprets the information to come up with their own conclusions, whereas the Department of Natural Resources creates their list.
A person can kill 10 quail during the hunting season, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Quail can be found in the Lower Peninsula anywhere south of Muskegon, Funke said.
The northern bobwhite is the only quail species in Michigan.