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I currently live in southeast New Hampshire and was reading a history of my town and it describes the landscape as having a lot of quail and even partridges. The book said children going to school around 1920 would see lots of quail. The town itself has not changed much from 1920 except that there are fewer farms. The population is about the same. In fact, the population is probably lower now than it was in 1920.

I have never seen a single quail here, and certainly never seen a partridge. I have seen a pheasant on rare occasion. There are a lot of turkeys.

Is this like a Silent Spring thing, they all got killed off by DDT or something? Or is it because of insecticides killing all the crickets, maybe? I almost never hear crickets at night.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't recall ever seeing quail growing up in the rural northeast, yet partridges and pheasnts were fairly common. Yet quail are very common where I live (just east of the Sierra Nevada). I can see a dozen or so running around my yard most evenings. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 13 '19 at 4:55
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Work in the early 1990s (https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/5210546) (https://www.nwf.org/en/Magazines/National-Wildlife/1993/The-Case-of-the-Disappearing-Quail) suggests development (curtailing habitat), climate crisis (and associated water loss), and decline in insect populations (reducing food supply) as possible causal factors.

Insects are an important energy source for birds, generally. They help pollinate plants, which help feed birds, and they are also a food source, themselves. Their loss (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_in_insect_populations) particularly hits bird populations hard. Unless we change our agricultural practices, it is predicted that most insects may be extinct within a century. This would decimate many forms of life (ourselves, included with quail and other birds) that depend on them.

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  • $\begingroup$ But that would not explain why they have apparently declined in the northeast, but are plentiful here in the west. Might it be a change in land use? Quail tend to inhabit open grasslands (and sagebrush scrub, hereabouts). If the small fields & pastures of agricultural New England in the 1920s largely reverted to forest, there would not be as much quail habitat. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 13 '19 at 17:33

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