Don’t blame feral cats for quail decrease

The Island Now

The Town of North Hempstead, under the thoughtful leadership of Supervisor Judy Bosworth, is to be commended for its concern for the environment and in seeking a non-chemical solution to the control of ticks (Great Neck News, Aug. 10, P 11.)

The quail egg project is fascinating — the release of grown Northern bobwhite quails into tick infested areas hopefully will control the tick population. However, Eric Powers, biologist working with the Town on this project, is mistaken when he blames feral cats, also known as community cats, and unsupervised house cats, for the drastic decrease in the quail population.

Recent studies have shown that the most common cause for the decrease in the quail population is human intervention. Additionally, the catastrophic and dramatic decrease of all bird species can be attributed to many things caused by humans — migrating songbirds crashing into skyscrapers and glass window of houses, the decimation of the birds breeding grounds and nesting areas due to human encroachment, their slaughter by windmills, pesticides and the danger from natural predators.

Yes, cats and indeed all pets should always stay indoors.

However, that is not always the case. Again, Bosworth and her caring and knowledgeable staff are to be commended for their Trap, Neuter, Return program, the goal of which is to reduce the number of feral cats, by spaying or neutering the cats, thereby controlling the cat population.

In a successful joint effort, Town personnel and local volunteers are hard at work controlling the cat population. Now if we can control the over-building and human encroachment on undeveloped land, avian and other wildlife populations will have a better chance at survival. The following is the National Wildlife Federation’s ( explanation for the quail’s disappearance:

“No one knows for sure,” says wildlife biologist Kevin Church of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, exactly why those populations are suffering. “All we have are theories.” High on the list are changes in the birds’ habitat. In some areas of the Northeast and Southeast, urban and suburban sprawl are destroying the brushy areas that quail like. Strained by human development and agricultural chemicals, many quail populations are declining in this country at a precipitous rate.”

The American Bird Conservancy ( offers a similar explanation for the troubling decrease in the quail’s population:

Habitat loss and the increased use of pesticides are thought to be the culprits behind this steep decline — a worrisome trend also noted in other birds sharing similar habitats, including Loggerhead Shrike.”

Obviously the plight of quails and other avians is complicated and distressing. However, it appears as if the cause for the decrease in the quail population lies more at the hands of humans rather than at the paws of cats.

Janet Fine
Great Neck


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