There's no doubt that bird populations are declining in North America, and game birds are among the most threatened. The Audubon Society compiled a list of the common birds that have suffered the most extensive population losses in recent decades, and first on the list was the Northern Bobwhite quail [source: Audubon].
There are many conservation organizations laboring to protect the threatened avian kingdom, but Quail Unlimited (QU) -- although its efforts also help doves and other game birds -- directs itself exclusively to the benefit of a single species. Quail are popular among both birdwatchers and recreational sportsmen. And hunters, despite their penchant for putting birds to death, are a key constituency in the conservation movement. As Theodore Roosevelt wrote a century ago, "The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wild life, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the … valuable wild creatures from total extermination" [source: Roosevelt].
Quail Unlimited aims to restore the necessary habitat for these birds to thrive. Its members, organized into chapters across the United States, work to educate farmers and other landowners about how to make their land wildlife-friendly. They are also directly involved in habitat improvement projects like distributing and planting seeds, and mowing, spraying and strategically burning land for purposes of wildlife management.
This article will describe the group's mission and numerous projects. However, let's first take a look at how the quail problem emerged.