This is not news to those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing. Numbers of some of the most common birds are dropping precipitously. Northern bobwhites were quite common in the part of Arkansas where I grew up 40 years ago--now they're rare. What's causing the decline? Habitat destruction, introduced species, pesticides, overharvesting--the usual suspects. Because they're ground nesters, bobwhites may be particulary susceptible to fire ant invasion.
Bobwhites are cheery birds; their perky little whistle was one of my favorite sounds when I was a child. When he was a teenager, my dad raised bobwhites to sell, but grew attached to them, and wasn't able to sell them for their intended use, training bird dogs. Had he lived to see it, he would have been proud of the fact that I studied bobwhites for my master's degree.
Lots of places in Arkansas look like good habitat for these quail, but most often, they're conspicuous by their absence.