North Hempstead Town officials released more than 70 northern bobwhite quail into the wild Tuesday to allow the feathery fowl feed on Long Island's tick population.
"We think of them as our superheroes in the fight against ticks," said Supervisor Judi Bosworth.
It's the second year North Hempstead has raised and released quail. Last year, the town set free 36 quail in a wooded area near North Hempstead Beach Park.
This year's batch, like last year, was incubated at the Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel. The eggs hatched in late May. After that, the quail were taken to Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown, where they spent six weeks maturing.
They were released at Hempstead Harbor Shoreline Trail.
Releasing quail, a tick's natural predator, is a more eco-friendly way of eliminating the insects without spraying insecticide, Bosworth said. Ticks are most active in warmer months and can carry many pathogens — the most noteworthy is a bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
Bosworth said officials in Suffolk County will release 180 quail into the wild this week. County Executive Steve Bellone announced a partnership with the Third House Nature Center, whose officials plan to release the quail into Montauk County Park.
Eric Powers, a biologist who lives in Smithtown, oversaw the North Hempstead quail operation. He has been raising and releasing quail across Long Island for years, Bosworth said.
"In the places that we have been releasing them, we have seen a decrease in the number of ticks," Powers said Tuesday. "But most of the information is anecdotal."
Town officials said they will study the impact quail are making on the tick population. The town dragged a white sheet across vegetation along the harbor trail last month and counted the ticks on the sheet. The same team will drag another sheet along the trail in the fall.