Fewer feral cats means better quail watching
Last updated 2/15/2019 at 9:39am
To the Editor:
Since Odessa city ordinances were passed to eliminate feral cats in 2016, the local quail population has increased. In talking with friends and neighbors around town, it seems most of us are charmed by watching the quail run through our yards. When a light snow has covered the sidewalks, the myriad of quail footprints running in wild circles and patterns will bring a smile of delight to the observer.
For those who want to attract quail to their properties to help the survival rates of these delightful fowl, one must understand the needs to be met for their survival. Quail diet consists of 80% seeds, 20% leaves, shoots, berries and fruits and a negligible amount of insects.
Since quail live on the ground, they need to feel secure from predators. By planting low growing shrubbery, especially shrubs with thorns or the dense evergreens, quail will have a place to run and hide if they feel nervous. In a secluded corner of the yard, a stick pile is welcome to quail. Simply stack sticks in a way that will leaves openings for the quail to run underneath. Annual vines can be trained to grow over the sticks and can create a lovely flowering mound. Plantings of berries and fruits will make the yard attractive to quail.
At the end of the summer gardening season, leave the dead flowers to overwinter. Quail will feast on the seeds. Prune dead plants in early spring. Regular birdseed can be purchased locally and will be quickly eaten. Seed mixes for wild game birds are available, as well, but may be hard to find at local stores. Quail especially love millet.
On a daily basis, spread a cup or two of bird seed in a sheltered spot in the yard. Always move slowly and quietly. If the quail do not feel safe, they will not claim a lawn as their sanctuary. Alternatively, sprinkle seed in a garden area, the quail droppings will provide quality fertilization to next spring’s garden. Some of the seed may sprout, but the quail will gobble the tasty sprouted greens in no time. If not, the sprouts are easy to hand pull.
Clean drinking water is imperative to the health and survival of quail and all other wild birds. If you are lucky to have a natural water source such as a pond or creek, nothing need to be done. If not, a heated bird bath will maintain drinkable water even in freezing winter conditions. Or, just putting fresh water out each morning would be a help. For quail, the water must be at ground level.
In conclusion, it is very easy to attract quail to your property. Simply provide shelter, seed and water. It is not very time consuming. Actually, the time spent on providing the three basic needs of quail will reward you with hours of enjoyment during the winter.