I was walking down the street in downtown Walnut Grove a few years ago, when a beautiful bobwhite quail call came from a top ledge of a building where several starlings were perched.  Not an uncommon experience for experienced field birders to some time or another to have had a similar experience.
I had the good fortune to participate in the MDC quail whistle count this fall.  The counts are conducted during the month of October.  You start listening from a preassigned listening post at 45min prior to sunrise, and count covey gathering calls until 10min prior to sunrise.  The covey call is not the typical bobwhite call but more of a single note call.  Really a quite discernable call at that time of the day.
There are, as usual, more than one dynamic in the environmental impact of quail populations, but it is my understanding that the considerable increase of fescue into the environment is a major cause of the problem.
Charley Burwick
Greater Ozarks Audubon
Springfield, Mo
Greene County

On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 9:28 PM, Christine Kline <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I am posting this for a friend, who is just satisfying some of his idle curiosity...

"Several years back I overheard a discussion in which possible turkey
predation was cited as the cause for a decrease in the quail population in
eastern Kansas. The consensus was that the evidence of turkey predation
was anecdotal at best, and that the decrease in quail numbers was more likely
a matter of environmental changes. Sounded feasible to me. I'm not a hunter,
so it wasn't a burning issue for me anyway.

Sometime after that, curiosity lead me to an article (probably in a link off the
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks site) which explained quail whistle
counting procedures used to estimate local quail populations. In reading about
the whistle count, I was reminded of an observation I've made on several
occasions which I will relate here: While crossing the parking lot on my way
into work, I've been greeted by 'bobwhite' calls coming from somewhere
overhead. When I looked up to catch a glimpse of a quail, I saw only a pack of
starlings, either bunched together on an overhead light post, or spread out in
an old beat up oak tree. The direction of the calls was obvious, and there
were no quail present. These observations were made on clear mornings at
roughly 9:00 am. One occasion had to be in fall or early spring, because
though it was a warm day, there were no leaves obscuring my view into that
oak tree. The workplace where these observations were made is just next to
the business airport in New Century/Gardner, Kansas, a fairly remote, but
increasingly suburban environment. The starlings were clearly imitating quail,
and the inference that I of course made was that the starlings were spending
enough time near quail to learn the call, and that proximity might imply a
competition for resources.

All this preamble leads to my questions: Has anyone else witnessed this
apparent imitation? Is competition from an encroaching starling population
considered part of the environmental changes affecting the quail? Finally,
when conducting whistle counts, are field observers distinguishing (or is there
a reliable way to distinguish) a true bobwhite whistle from and imitated one?"

Christine Kline (for a friend)
[log in to unmask]
Pleasant Hill, MO/Cass County

The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Spring Meeting: April 30-May 2. Cape Girardeau, MO

The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Spring Meeting: April 30-May 2. Cape Girardeau, MO