Best known for its topknot and characteristic call—”chi-ca-go”—our state bird, the California quail, was recently named “Official Bird of the City of San Francisco.” Once abundant and an important food source for the Ohlone people and early settlers, California quail are now in danger in parts of the Bay Area. Loss of suitable habitat, introduction of non-native plants, feral cats, outdoor domestic cats, and other nest predators have all taken their toll. Quail are especially vulnerable because they nest on the ground and travel largely on foot. The quail population in Golden Gate Park has declined from an estimated 1,500 in the year 1900 to only 6-8 males and 2 females today. Volunteers are working hard to preserve the quail and its habitat in both San Francisco and the East Bay. The Golden Gate Audubon Society, National Park Service, and Presidio Trust are sponsoring Help Restore Quail Habitat Day in the Presidio on Saturday, July 28 from 9 a.m.-noon. If you want to sign up to help remove exotic vegetation or build brush piles (which provide safe havens from predators), call Alan Hopkins at (415)664-0983. To help out in the East Bay or to Adopt-a-Quail for $25, call Doc Quack (otherwise known as Dave Riensche) at the East Bay Regional Park District at (510)544-2319.
Bay Nature magazine ◦ July-September 2001