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North Hempstead readies to release 3 dozen tick-eating quails

Quail at Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown

Quail at Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, some of which will be used to fight ticks by the Town of North Hempstead. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Town of North Hempstead plans to release three dozen quail in Port Washington next week so the birds can eat disease-carrying ticks.

In May, town officials began raising northern bobwhite quail as an eco-friendly way of combating an abnormally high tick population expected this summer. The quail, which are ticks’ natural predator, hatched several weeks ago and are full grown and ready for the real world, town officials said.

“The release of our home-grown quail will certainly be an exciting event that no one should miss,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said Monday in a statement. “These birds are our superheroes in the fight against ticks and the diseases they carry.”

The quail will be released at 10:30 a.m. July 26 at the Hempstead Harbor Trail. Town officials said those who want to attend should arrive at the head of the trail at about 10:20 a.m., then walk a short distance to the release point.

The quail will not be named or tagged and are expected to stay within two to three acres of the release site.

Town officials acquired the quail from a hatchery in Iowa as an alternative to spraying insecticide to combat ticks, Bosworth said. Ticks are most active in warmer months and can carry many pathogens, most notably a bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

The release is the final stage of a pilot program that began when the quail incubated as eggs at the town’s television studio in New Cassel. Eric Powers, a biologist who lives in Smithtown, has been the birds’ foster dad.

Powers said Wednesday that the birds are “ready to graduate.”

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