NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - One by one, 28 northern bobwhite quail were released into the wild in Port Washington, Long Island. Within minutes, the 9-week-old birds started searching for bugs.
The project is part of a pilot program designed by Ranger Eric Powers, a wildlife educator, to help combat ticks. Quails are known to eat the potentially deadly insect.
"The purpose of this is to try restore a small balance in the ecosystem here by returning a bird that is supposed to be here in this ecosystem," Powers said.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the secret weapons are an alternative to using toxic pesticides.
"We wanted to find a way to deal with insects that carry diseases that could harm our residents and our pets in a way that would not, in fact, add toxins to the environment," she said.
The birds don't hibernate or migrate. They're out here all year. In the winter they actually switch to eating seeds to help control weeds. Officials aren't sure how many ticks a quail can eat but they say if this will help reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases including Lyme, it is worth it.
"Buying the incubator which we can in fact use next year and plan to, getting the eggs, hosting them, moving them out and bring them back in was less than $200," Bosworth said. "It is an inexpensive way of doing great things for our environment."
With the first batch under their belt, the town plans to do it again next year.