According to the data from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count, the Northern Bobwhite quail has suffered one of the most severe population declines of any North American bird (an approximately 82% decline in the last forty years). This decline, attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation and predation, has also been connected to the significant loss of the young forest habitat. States in the southeast, particularly Georgia and Florida, have had success rebuilding quail populations through forest stewardship, including thinning pine stands with mechanical and herbicide treatments in conjunction with prescribed burning.
Soliciting various partners in 2014, New Jersey Audubon embarked upon an ambitious effort to study methodologies to restore Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey. In 2014, the project proposal added New Jersey to a multi-state initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States. As part of the initiative, New Jersey has the unique focus of releasing wild quail in the NJ Pine Barrens region. Other aspects of the multi-state project include testing methods of raising and rearing captive bred quail in other states participating in the initiative. Beginning in 2015 wild quail were captured on private land in Georgia, health tested, radio tagged, transferred and ultimately released on the study site in NJ. Through the capture and release of 80 birds per year in 2015, 2016 and 2017 New Jersey Audubon and partners expect this project to serve as a template for replication on surrounding state and federal lands, as well as on surrounding private lands. This project will not only provide information on evaluating the efficacy of using translocation to restock bobwhite to Mid-Atlantic states, specifically, do birds moved from Northern latitudes survive better than birds moved Southern latitudes, but also will explore the long-standing land use challenge of obtaining and managing critical wildlife habitat patches for Northern Bobwhite Quail within the context of forest management and agricultural production.
John Parke is Stewardship Project Director–North Jersey for New Jersey Audubon. He has been with New Jersey Audubon since 2005 helping to enroll a multitude of farmers, landowners, and corporate entities into various conservation incentive programs. John also designs and assists with implementation of numerous habitat restoration projects in the northwestern part of the state on both private and public lands. In 2007 John’s habitat restoration plan design for the Verizon Corporate Campus in Basking Ridge, NJ earned Verizon the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for the Healthy Ecosystem Category and in 2011 John’s work with Troy Ettel on NJ Audubon’s S.A.V.E. initiative earned NJ Audubon the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for the Land Conservation Category.
John received his B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Geoscience from Ramapo State College of New Jersey. He has over 16 years of experience working in private-sector environmental consulting, where he served as Senior Wetland Specialist, as well as, Project Manager for the ecological division of Brennan Environmental, Inc. John is also a certified Professional Wetland Scientist with the Society of Wetland Scientists and a Certified Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America. John is an adjunct instructor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey teaching avian identification. He is also an alumnus of Class VIII of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program and is active with the NJDFW’s Wildlife Conservation Corps (WCC) as part of its Venomous Snake Response Team and assists NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife in performing rare species surveys throughout New Jersey.