The haunting call of the California Quail, the California State bird, is now rarely heard in Golden Gate Park. Historically, San Francisco’s streams and coastal scrub vegetation provided the food, cover, and water necessary for healthy quail populations. As the growing city altered the natural environment, the quail survived in a few areas—Golden Gate Park, McLaren Park, and the Presidio—that preserved remnants of brushy habitat and provided food and protection from predators. Beginning in the 1980s, however, quail populations in the parks declined rapidly as new trends in park management resulted in removal of the quails’ brushy homes. Today, the city’s quail population has plummeted from more than 1,500 quail to under 12 birds in Golden Gate Park.
Rather than accept the disappearance of quail, Golden Gate Audubon launched its Save the Quail campaign to ensure that California Quail would not be lost from the city forever. We developed wide public support for a quail restoration plan, successfully lobbied to have the California Quail recognized as the official San Francisco bird, and worked with other public interest groups, as well as the city’s Recreation and Parks Department and the Presidio Trust, to develop the restoration plan.
Today, Golden Gate Audubon is restoring quail habitat at Harding Park Golf Course at Lake Merced. Our project partners, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and the Harding Park Golf Course, contribute immeasurably by providing quail-friendly plants and hands-on volunteers.
- Feeding birds and animals in parks leaves food on the ground that encourages unnaturally large populations of animals, such as raccoons and skunks, that feed on quail eggs and chicks.
- Human impacts degrade remaining quail habitat, creating a pressing need for habitat restoration.
- The city’s tiny population of quail may not be able to sustain itself as its gene pool dwindles and other threats minimize the number of birds that remain.
Golden Gate Audubon is committed to restoring healthy and sustainable quail populations by re-creating the brushy habitat they need for food and protection. Key goals include:
- Restore sustainable populations of California Quail in the Presidio and appropriate city parks, beginning at Harding Park
- Develop a large volunteer team to maintain this new quail habitat by weeding and planting
- Work with key agencies to minimize ongoing threats to San Francisco’s quail population
- Build public support for California Quail conservation and an understanding of how individuals can help restore our city bird
What You Can Do
- Contact our San Francisco Conservation Committee to find out how you can help bring back the quail by working in the field, making presentations to local neighborhood groups, and writing letters.
- Keep your cat indoors and educate others about how this provides a longer healthier life for pet cats.
- Join our Quail Restoration Team at Harding Park to help us restore native vegetation.