With the warming weather taking us into spring, you might start to hear a familiar bird call during your visit. Our Northern Bobwhites, a favorite among guests, are often heard with their high-toned whistles, “Bob! Bobwhite!” through summer into the fall.
These small birds, weighing about the size of a roll of nickels, blend well into their environment. While our birds are well acclimated to seeing people, their wild counterparts are quite the opposite, running for cover from one patch of vegetation to the next. Like other upland game birds, Bobwhites require grasslands for their habitat, munching on the seeds and insects found there, but are also found in open pine forests and the edges of woodlands.
The most interesting thing about Bobwhites might be their call, but they also flock in small groups called a covey. When resting, they will form a circle, facing out and tucked close together with their tails inside the circle, to keep warm and stay alert. It is quite a sight to see in the morning and definitely adds to their “cute factor”!
According to the North American Bird Breeding Survey, Bobwhite populations have plummeted 85% since 1966 due to habitat loss and the increased use of pesticides. A group of agencies and conservation organizations founded The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative in 2002 to work on improving the future of the species. You can learn more at bringbackbobwhites.org.
Sara DePew-Bäby has been the animal caretaker at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary since July 2014. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in zoology and environmental science from Miami University and has over 20 years of experience in animal care.