PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y (PIX11) – Trying to fight the high number of ticks on Long Island, 100 northern bobwhite quail were released into the wild at Hempstead Harbor Trail in Port Washington on Tuesday.
The birds are used to naturally reduce the tick population by eating them. It’s a way to avoid spraying harmful and toxic products, like pesticides, into the environment.
“It’s a very natural way to take care of our ticks and keep us all healthy and safe during this summer,” Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said.
Eric Powers, a wildlife biologist at the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery, started this project 22 years ago when studying why the tick population is so high on the island. He found that the species that eats the ticks – the northern bobwhite quail – was declining. Why? Because of cats.
“These indoor/outdoor cats are just having a profound negative impact on our ecosystem here and to get it back into balance, we’ve got to adjust our culture to keeping our cats indoors,” Powers said.
In the wild, about 20% of the quail survive. But with cats in the picture, the survival rate is even lower.
With the help of local schools and libraries, the eggs were incubated and hatched. The Huntington Public Library participated and Laura Giuliani, head of youth and parent services, is a volunteer.
“Our staff and patrons were thrilled to be part of that process,” Guiliani said.
The birds are 12 weeks old and have reached their maximum size. Their vision is designed to look for small bugs like grasshoppers, bees, wasps, and more in fields and forests and they will look to eat any of these bugs in abundance, especially ticks.
Within the next week, hundreds more quail will be released throughout the island. In total, 900 will be flying free to help reduce the tick population.