Habitat & Conservation  |  01/29/2021

What do pheasants, quail and monarch butterflies all have in common?


Your New Year’s resolution can also support our favorite upland critters

By Anna Swerczek, Habitat Education Program Manager at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

It isn’t much of a riddle, but they all share the same habitat and need those blooming wildflowers. The monarchs use the wildflowers for a nectar source and milkweed for laying their eggs, while pheasant and quail chicks nest in this habitat and feed on those soft bodied insects attracted to the flowers. Watching monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed while hearing that bobwhite whistle and pheasant cackle can arguably be my favorite pastimes that is quickly disappearing. 

Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the Monarch Joint Venture have joined forces to support declining pollinator populations, including the iconic monarch butterfly. From February to October 2021, athletes from across the country will run, walk, bike, hike, or paddle to see how many miles the group can log. Will it compare to the tremendous 3,000 mile journey that monarch butterflies endure each fall during their migration? Through staying active and getting outdoors, this year-long campaign aims to increase awareness about pollinators, inspire action to protect them, and raise funds to support recovery efforts. 

Monarch butterflies, which weigh about as much as a paper clip, undergo an annual migration of thousands of miles across North America. To most of us, this seems unfathomable without the aid of modern-day transportation. But, while monarch populations have drastically declined, they continue to endure this magical migration. To protect this phenomenon for future generations, monarch butterflies need us to act fast. Eastern monarchs, which overwinter in the mountains of central Mexico, have declined by more than 70% over the past few decades. The western population finds refuge along the California coast during the winter, and preliminary estimates suggest that fewer than 2000 butterflies are overwintering on the coast this year, a greater than 99% decline.  

By way of a new year’s resolution, an office wellness challenge, distance learning gym class, or simply maintaining an active lifestyle, Miles for Monarchs is an exciting way to support pollinator conservation. In February, participants launch the campaign with setting mileage goals and learning about the spring migration where butterflies make the return journey from their overwintering grounds. In June, they celebrate National Pollinator Week and log miles while learning about the various opportunities for building monarch habitat to support the breeding generations. Finally, September challenges participants to push through the final miles to reach their migration goal and learn about the wonders of monarch migration. Participants log their miles during each of the three months and are engaged in various fun activities throughout the course of the year! 

Proceeds from this virtual event support monarch habitat projects and monarch research projects implemented by Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the Monarch Joint Venture.  

Click here to register or contact Ella Phillips at ephillips@monarchjointventure.org or Drew Larsen at dlarsen@pheasantsforever.org with questions. 

About Monarch Joint Venture

The Monarch Joint Venture is a national nonprofit made up of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and academic program partners working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration for future generations. Read more at on the Monarch Joint Venture website.