About Them: These are a subspecies of the Bobwhite Quail often lumped with the Northern Bobwhite. Their distinctions are really only visible in the males, having a mostly black head instead of the white supercilium and lower white face markings of the Northern. Their differences do seem to go DNA deep and they make different choices for habitat than the Northern Bobwhite. Looking for low shrub and grass and semiarid desert. They have only ranged in the South West now in the Sonoran Desert area in Southern Arizona and into Mexico. By the time they were set apart in description for science in the 1800’s their population was already struggling. They were believed to have gone extinct in the 1920’s. Then a small population was found in the 1960’s and only through captive breeding do they still exist in healthy numbers.
Their plight: Cattle herds graze across the land Masked Bobwhite’s use for habitat making it inhospitable for their needs. This grazing removes the grasses and shrubs that the Bobwhites use for cover and finding food, while leaving space for trees to gain space and time to grow too large. Fire suppression has also lead to plants not maintaining the original habitat Bobwhites evolved to work within.
What we should consider: First how interesting that hunters are part of the group hoping to see these birds gain a healthy population. Bobwhites are a favored game bird and it is in the best interest of hunters to have healthy populations. The more people you can get involved to protect and save a species the more likely you will see it succeed even if you don’t agree with everything they do, within reason. You never know where the seed of similarity will go.
This is a species that uses land between two countries. It does not understand a border wall. As the population does grow and it wants to expand that range are we really going to have a barrier like a wall in its way to continue healthy breeding? Perhaps it would be better to recognize our continued work with Mexico to help both of our countries even in these small instances and see how in larger venues that may be a better path.
What is being done: A breeding program was set up in Maryland to rebuild the population originally in the 1960’s. After a quota of birds were reached they were no longer an applicable species for this location and the breeding program was moved to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. They now also have begun breeding through George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center as well as recently partnering with Mexico at Africam Safari to continue efforts to make a wild sustaining population. Having the Masked Bobwhite on the Endangered Species Act helps to bring in the funds to support these breeding efforts as well as habitat rehabilitation that is very difficult. Fires are no longer enough for some Mesquite Trees, they have to be cut back to bring them to the appropriate number for this range.
How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]