Reintroducing  Bobwhite quail to the state of Pennsylvania

In March of this year, LightHawk volunteer pilot Benjamin Cohen and his son Casey loaded several crates of masked bobwhite quail into his Beechcraft Bonanza. He then flew them from Florida to their new home in Pennsylvania. There, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials ferried them to their release location.

This flight is part of a project to reestablish Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) to the state of Pennsylvania. The species is native to Pennsylvania and was listed as a species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) until they were determined to be no longer within the state. It is a high priority of the state wildlife agency (Pennsylvania Game Commission, PGC) to reestablish this species. LightHawk will be working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to continue transporting quail as part of this reintroduction plan.

Tall Timbers Research Inc. is a nonprofit research and conservation organization with a proven history of relocating bobwhite quail and working with state wildlife agencies.

Staff with Tall Timbers Research, Inc captured the wild bobwhite quail in one night using baited walk-in funnel traps. Casey Cohen took part in this part of the operation as well! The captured quail were fitted with a necklace-style UHF transmitter which actively transmit a UHF radio signal. This was done so that the bobwhite quail did not need to be handled at the release point but could be released without the additional stress of handling.

Researchers from the University of Delaware will monitor survival of the translocated bobwhite quail to monitor project success.

The bobwhite were secured in wooden transport boxes with holes for ventilation. Flights for this project reduce stress on the bobwhite quail and prevent our partner from having to transport them via vehicle. Without the ability to move these birds with LightHawk, staff would have to drive the entire route in one shot, as the birds can not be held for more than 24 hours.

Alex Jackson from Tall Timbers Research, Inc. said this about the flight, “Minimizing holding time during bobwhite translocation is extremely important to the survival of the birds. Traveling from Florida to Pennsylvania by vehicle would have greatly increased holding time, could have increased mortality, and would have been dangerous for our employees, as they would have needed to leave immediately after trapping the birds in the middle of the night. This project was very important to reestablish wild bobwhite to the state of Pennsylvania and demonstrate successful partnerships with state agencies. We hope this project will be a catalyst for future translocations on state and federal lands. LightHawk was instrumental in protecting the birds and allowing us to release them in a fast and effective manner.”

Thank you to volunteer pilot Benjamin Cohen for providing this flight and Casey Cohen for capturing photos of the bobwhite quail transport!

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