As some may know, Bernheim is working on a quail restoration project to reintroduce quail into natural areas of Kentucky. Although quail are not officially considered threatened or endangered, the population of this bird has rapidly declined in the area due to destruction of its natural habitat. For the past 5 years, Ronnie Moore, Natural Areas Manager at Bernheim, has been incubating quail eggs and raising chicks to be released into the wild. I had the opportunity to work with him one morning and it was definitely a morning to remember!
Our task of the morning was to move all of the chicks from their brooder boxes to the outdoor pens, where they will spend the rest of their juvenile weeks. This proved to be quite a daunting task. We put a crate-type box with a trap door into the brooder box and got as many chicks as we could to run in there. Unfortunately, there were always at least 10 chicks that either escaped or ran past the box. It was my job to catch the escaped chicks. I would have loved to see a video of me chasing these around the barn trying to catch them! Once we captured the chicks, we took them out to the pens and let them loose. If I had to guess, we had about 200 chicks, making this a pretty lengthy task! We had to wrangle chicks into the box about 6 times and chase down close to 20 that had escaped. After a few hours, we finally got all the chicks into the pen and our job was finished. I had such a good time learning about the quail restoration efforts happening at Bernheim Forest and the opportunity to work with these animals up close and personal was a great way to learn more about the species.
The chicks are staying in the pens for 2 to 3 weeks, and then will be released into the wild. I plan to attend the release of the birds, and will take lots of pictures for everyone to enjoy!
-Amanda Ross, Education Intern