SAN FRANCISCO (Tara Moriarty/KTVU) - San Francisco's official city bird has almost become extinct.
Animal experts say there's only one surviving quail in the entire city due mainly to predators like raccoons, cats and other birds.
KTVU'S Tara Moriarty set out on a quest to track the elusive bird with two aviary experts in Golden Gate Park Friday.
Alan Hopkins and Josiah Clark call themselves birders. Donning binoculars and hiking boots, the two hit the trail behind the California Academy of Science building scanning the brush for the bird's signature topknot.
"Let's hope he's here," said Hopkins, walking as leaves crunched beneath him.
The two warn Moriarty that a reporter has never seen this lone quail of San Francisco and their search may prove futile.
"People have called him Ishi," said Hopkins, the former President of the Golden Gate Audobon Society and head of the 2001 "Save the Quails" campaign, which unfortunately he said, failed.
Using a bird calling app on their phone, the two play the bird's song and wait.
"Listen! There it is! It's calling! It's calling!" said Clark, excitedly.
The lone quail hopped through the brush in a whir of black, white and blue-gray as the trio chased it to get a better look.
Clark said predators like cats, other bird species and even human intrusion have all led to the demise of the quail in San Francisco.
"It was really death by a thousand cats for the quail," said Clark, a consulting ecologist for Habitat Potential.
Hopkins pinpoints 1990 as the origin of the noticeable decline.
In 1900, experts estimate there were as many as 1500 quail in Golden gate park alone, but by 1986, that number had been whittled down to 140.
The quail has 11 different calls according to Hopkins.
"The most well-known one is the 'chuh-huh-her' kind of call...some say it's "Chi-ca-go!"
Ishi's mating call falls on deaf ears.
"It is sad to think about that lone bird out there calling, calling and looking for the rest of its kind, looking for a mate," said Clark. "It's suffering from an identity crisis right now."
The California quail is not only the city's official bird, but the state bird as well.
While it's not near extinction by any stretch throughout the state, Clark says the numbers are dwindling.