Where did all the quail go?
Kyle Larberger in Alabama somehow got into my TikTok feed asking where all the quail went, and that got my attention. Kyle is the drive behind the Native Habitat Project seeking to reclaim northern Alabama prairie land wherever possible, helping, among other things, the quail to come back.
Quail need native grasses and sedges to help them hide from predators. In our North American ecosystem, these grasses and sedges clump, rather than distribute themselves evenly. These clumps create safe little tunnels in the prairie where the hawks and other predators can't readily see them.
Pastures, fallow lands, roadsides, lawns, and other open areas have been seeded with grasses that don't belong. They get mowed multiple times per year. They blanket the ground instead of clumping.
No prairie. No quail.
What else are we killing?
What else are we killing by eradicating their environment? Well, what haven't you seen around? This is going to vary. But with development, landscaping, and gardening that favor European and Asian plants, with the widespread practice of labeling every native plant a weed, you can bet we are taking huge chunks out of the wildlife in every area. Local bees and butterflies can't use the plants you find at the store. Local birds and mammals can't either. Turf grass is terrible for living beings.
So what are we doing here?
My yard is being converted to native habitat. Now, I live in a city, so I can't completely “wild” this land without causing problems with neighbors and the city. And attracting the full gamut of possible wildlife wouldn't be such a good thing for them or for me. I can imagine the havoc if a great lot of snakes start hanging out.
What I can do is create intentional landscaping using native plants that belong in central Mississippi. Instead of a blended prairie with wildflowers of all sorts growing consistently three to four feet high, I'll be setting up plantings that are obviously more intentional and artistic. I'll be using low ground covers in between. This is horticulture, not neglect, and it needs to look like it.