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Habitat upgrades in progress!!!!!!

The Focus On Pheasants Areas ............................................................. 4 The Focus On Pheasants Partnership.................................................... 5 Statewide Pheasants Trend Data ........................................................... 7 South Central Focus Area ....8-9 South Central Tour agenda..10-15 South Central Focus on Pheasants practices and payments..17 Mid Contract Management.18 Research and Evaluation Results ....................................................... 25 Notes ........................................................................................................ 40

Focus On Pheasants
Focus On Pheasants is a partnership effort formed in 2002 that brings together a unique combination of Federal, State and Local government agencies, conservation groups, private industry and landowners. This combination of groups has come together in an effort to improve mature grass stands throughout the state and provide better pheasant and grassland song bird habitat. The primary focus of this partnership has been to increase the wildlife habitat quality and diversity of grass stands using the following management tools: Controlled burns Interseeding legumes Disking Chemical herbaceous vegetation control Haying Grazing

The Focus On Pheasants Partnership

July Mail Carrier Road Sides Survey in Nebraska,1951-2011.









1951 1956 1961 1966 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011

South Central
Focus On Pheasants

South Central Focus on Pheasants Habitat Tour Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
9:00 a.m. Welcome and Introductions 9:10 a.m. History of Focus on Pheasants Expansion of Harlan County Lake New South Central FOP Area and Landowner Incentives Currently Offered 9:30 a.m. Begin Field Tour Stop #1: Methodist Cove Area A) 2011 Fall Disking / 2012 Spring Interseeding - site was hayed in August 2011 and disked (3 passes) in Oct/Nov 2011 - seeded with brood-rearing mix (~35 spp. of wildflowers) in April 2012 B) Chemical Burn-Down treatments (Clethodim) - two treatment blocks were hayed in mid-August 2011, others left standing - variety of different rates applied on hayed/unhayed areas (see map) Site #2: Tipover Cove Area A) 2011 Shrub Planting discussion of chemical control methods B) 2011 Spring Interseeding - cropland was seeded with brood-rearing mix (~35 spp. of wildflowers) in April 2011 C) Discussion of Crop Rotation on USACE Ag Leases and FOP Cropland Incentives Site #3: North Cove Area A) 2011 Spring Interseeding - cropland was seeded with brood-rearing mix (~35 spp. of wildflowers) in April 2011 B) 2011 Spring Disking / 2011 Spring Interseeding - site was disked (2 passes) and interseeded to brood-rearing mix (~35 spp. of wildflowers) in April 2011 - discussion of noxious weeds and impact of chemical on plant diversity C) 2011 Spring Interseeding - cropland was seeded with brood-rearing mix (~35 spp. of wildflowers) in April 2011 12:00 12:30 Lunch (provided) at the Gremlin Cove Shelter Site #4: Hunter Cove Area A) Cropland left idle (no interseeding) in Spring 2011 B) Tree removal to enhance habitat connectivity - discussion of future management and shrub thicket management C) 2012 Spring Disking / 2012 Spring Interseeding - this was an 5-yr old idle field that was disked/interseeded to stimulate new growth in spring 2012 D) 2011 Spring Rx Burn, chemical follow-up (brome regrowth), and interseeding w/ legume mix 1:30 p.m. Complete Field Tour / Questions

NOTE: Anyone joining the tour late or that happens to get lost during the tour can call Jake Holt at 308-370 -1750 for current location of the group.









Grass Stand Management

~ Observations and Opinions ~ Disking and Interseeding

Two passes minimum is required in stands of smooth bromegrass or switchgrass. In some cases, our efforts have reached as high as five passes with a disk. Even aggressive disking in this fashion does not make fields susceptible to erosion. It is far easier to disk too little than it is to disk too much. Haying or burning the grass stand prior to disking reduces litter and improves the ease of disking, but is not critical to achieving good results. Removal of litter may decrease the number of disking passes necessary to achieve the desired impact and results. Smooth bromegrass typically returns aggressively in the 3rd growing season following this type of management. While the smooth bromegrass comes back aggressively, the grass stand can still provide good structure and nesting cover at that point. Disking prior to September 15th on smooth bromegrass does not sufficiently set the grass stand back. Regrowth occurs within months and significantly reduces the effective length of the treatment by at least one season. Disking smooth bromegrass in the spring is the most effective treatment, but the ability to accomplish field work prior to May 1st is very weather dependent. Care should be taken to stay out of waterways and away from the field borders when selecting areas for disking. Care should be taken to identify areas of known noxious weed infestations and then design work around these areas. If the area had a history of noxious weeds prior to enrollment in CRP, it will certainly have noxious weed situation following disking if that is your management technique. Frank discussions with landowners about early successional plants (weeds) need to be discussed prior to initiation of work. The landowners tolerance to early successional plants and desire for more wildlife will help guide your management technique application. Effective communication with USDA field office, local weed superintendent, landowners, and media can greatly increase support for habitat improvements such as this. This partnership has been enhanced by substantial support from the media, partners and landowners. The legume and forb seeding mixtures used (see produced desirable plant composition and structure. Annual plant responses varied from site to site. Generally speaking, common sunflower and annual foxtail are the primary annuals that show up in the first growing season. Common sunflowers are significantly reduced from the site after the first year.


Grass Stand Management

~ Observations and Opinions ~ Prescribed fire and haying

Prescribed fire on warm-season CRP grass stands can be effective in reducing cool-season grass encroachment and for certain tree control if timed correctly. It also reduces grass litter and invigorates regrowth. Some annual plants also respond favorably to the increased sunlight penetration. To reduce the encroachment of cool-season grasses, mid to late April in CRP and May 25 in rangeland burns are recommended. The reduction of litter following a burn provides an excellent opportunity to: Disk and interseed a mixture of legumes. Increase disturbance on the site. Use a no-till drill to interseed legumes into the existing grass stand. Prescribed fire on an established cool-season grass stand does very little to improve the grass stand composition or diversity. It will reduce the litter and can be effective in controlling some woody plants. Haying can also reduce litter and provide an opportunity to either disk and interseed or to apply other management techniques. Interseeding a legume mixture directly into a hayed cool-season grass stand without another form of disturbance produced minimal benefits that will last for a short period of time. Haying that is performed on a site 3 to 5 years after an initial upgrade has provided positive wildlife benefits. Even on sites where the cool-season grasses have returned aggressively, haying the site has brought back a flush of legume growth. Haying activities are restricted from being used during the primary nesting season dates of May 1 st to July 15th. Combining prescribed fire with high intensity, short duration grazing can be an excellent combination of management techniques. Combining the two treatments can help control coolseason grass grasses and stimulate both warm-season grasses and broadleaf forbs.


Grass Stand Management

~ Observations and Opinions ~ Herbicide application and interseeding

Where disking is not feasible, chemical burn back using a Glyphosate herbicide may provide the best management alternative. Situations where the use of herbicide might be preferred include areas with known noxious weed infestations, lack of tillage equipment, or hayed cool-season grass stands. The use of Select herbicide or other non-broadleaf herbicides offers additional alternatives for reducing the regrowth of cool-season grasses and encouraging broadleaved forbs in upgraded areas. Experience has found that when controlling smooth bromegrass with a Glyphosate, an application of 28+ ounces per acre with an AMS applied between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on a warm day produces the best results.

Haying and Spraying recommendations developed for use in the Focus On Pheasants partnership by Jim Brown, Natural Resource Specialist, US Army Corps of Engineers Republican City, NE.


Grass Stand Management

~ Observations and Opinions ~

Final Thoughts

CRP cost share rates, generally speaking, are too low. Even for landowners that seriously desire to see habitat improvement and for those that are only conducting this work as a requirement of CRP, this will be viewed as a financial burden or will result in sub par results due to lack of awareness. There are very few certainties in life...two that can be applied to CRP Mid Contract Management are: 1). You cant ever kill off smooth bromegrass with any amount of disking. 2). If you had noxious weeds before enrollment in CRP, they will show up again following disking.

While USDA technical guides are pretty complete at describing maximum management efforts (how deep to disk, how many passes, percent reside, etc.), they are generally weak on outlining the minimum management efforts required to accomplish the desired results. Our experience showed that minimum management efforts produced minimum, if any, results. typically

This site was hayed in late summer followed by chemical treatment in the fall. It was then interseeded with legumes in the spring.


Grass Stand Management

~ Observations and Opinions ~ Noxious Weeds
Noxious weeds were identified as an issue to be addressed in the planning of Focus On Pheasant
activities. The plants on Nebraskas noxious weed list that were anticipated to be of concern included musk, plumeless, and Canada thistles.

CRP tracts with a history of thistle problems and where thistle seeds were present in the seed bank were more problematic than tracts with limited thistle history. When thistle problems occurred on CRP tracts that had been disked and interseeded with legumes as part of the Focus On Pheasants project, appropriate treatments were applied. herbicides. If thistle problems were widespread over a large area, then a blanket application of appropriate herbicide that was labeled for legumes and/or shredding of affected areas were treatments that provided acceptable results.

Those treatments included hand chopping, spot shredding, and spot spraying with appropriate

Communication and cooperation among all involved entities were the key to resolving noxious weed problems on CRP tracts while still developing and maintaining desired vegetative diversity provided by the interseeded legumes. enrollment in CRP, Mid Contract Management activities will bring those noxious weeds out again. Any activities that disturb the soil will allow those early successional stage plants to reappear.

The key message here is that if an area had a known history of noxious weeds prior to its


Research slide


2010 Southwest Pheasants Banding and Hunter survey Results

In October, a trapping program was initiated to trap and band rooster pheasants within the Southwest focus area. In addition to determining the efficacy of night-lighting pheasants for future research, we also sought to measure harvest rate and movement patterns during the hunting season. We captured and banded 155 pheasants before the start of the hunting season, and 27 had been reported as harvested by the end of the hunting season in January. An additional 3 roosters were known to have been harvested, but were not reported. Therefore, the recovery rate was 17.4% and the estimated reporting rate was 90%, giving an estimated harvest rate of 19.3% over the 2010-2011 pheasant season. However, there were likely more bands that were recovered and not reported, so this estimate of harvest rate is biased low and the actual harvest rate is likely higher. In 2011, we will be conducting a reward band study to more accurately estimate reporting rate and, therefore, harvest rate.
Photo Taken by: Doug Carroll

Several of the property owners on whose land we trapped pheasants kept records of harvest on their land. We used these data to estimate a Lincoln-Peterson estimate of population size for these properties. These estimates assume that the populations on these areas were closed, which was supported by information on the location of harvest of banded birds. For the three properties for which data were available, rooster population sizes were estimated to be 239 (+/-=106), 176 (+/-=50), and 90 (+/-=45). In addition to band return data, we also surveyed hunter satisfaction within the focus area. By the end of the season, we received 59 survey cards, and 57 respondents reported hunting within the focus area. Of the respondents who hunted within the focus area, 48 hunted public land (84.2%). The focus area was divided into quadrants (Figure 1), and hunters were asked to indicate which quadrant they hunted (Table 1). Some respondents indicated that they had hunted in multiple quadrants during their hunting trip, so the total number of hunters over all quadrants is greater than the number of respondents. TABLE 1. Number of hunters per quadrant in the Southwest FOP Focus Area and the percent of use based on number of respondents (n = 57).
Quadrant 1 2 3 4 Number of Hunters Using 18 13 13 30 Percent of Use 31.6 22.8 22.8 52.6

26 FIGURE 1. Map of the Southwest Focus on Pheasants Focus Area showing the division into quadrants.

A mean of 6.9 hours were spent afield in the focus area by respondents. The mean hunting party size was 4.3 hunters, who harvested an average of 9.5 pheasants (2.2 pheasants harvested per hunter in the average hunting party). Respondents reported seeing an average of 82 pheasants while hunting and an average of 17 hunters not associated with their party. Average hunter satisfaction was 4.2 (5 = Very Satisfied), and the majority of hunters were satisfied with their hunt (Table 2). CRP was the cover type most hunted by respondents (52, 91.2%), followed by milo stubble (16, 28.1%), wheat stubble (14, 24.6%), and other cover types including corn, weeds, and pasture (13, 22.8%). TABLE 2. Hunter satisfaction with the hunting experience within in the Southwest FOP Focus Area (n = 57).


From landscapes to land management: Improving gamebird populations by understanding the neighborhood
Across Nebraska there is considerable effort to improve pheasant and quail populations by enhancing habitat conditions on public and private lands. Given the limited resources, yet considerable effort necessary to achieve this goal there is a need to assure that management actions meet conservation objectives. Unfortunately despite the best of intentions, management efforts can fail, even when actions are widely seen as beneficial. Pheasants and quail are important game species, thus understanding why management efforts fail is not only necessary to successfully manage gamebirds, but also to ensure economic stability in the surrounding farmland communities. Chris Jorgensen, a graduate student with the University of Nebraska, and Joseph Fontaine, Assistant Unit Leader with the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, are working in a collaborative effort with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Pheasants Forever, and numerous private land owners to address this issue by exploring how habitat conditions across the landscape may influence local habitat suitability for upland gamebirds. They are testing the notion, that like ourselves, upland gamebirds may be unable or unwilling to occupy bad neighborhoods, no matter how great the house. Over the last two years, and continuing into 2012, they have conducted bird surveys at locations scattered across southern Nebraska. Including 24 State and Federal Wildlife Management Areas, 19 private properties enrolled in the CRP-MAP program, and 23 additional sites located on private lands. Thus far they have recorded >7,000 birds representing >100 species including quail, pheasants, and even prairie-chickens. By looking at habitat conditions using field measurements and satellite imagery, their initial findings suggest that some species are particularly sensitive to conditions in the neighborhood. For example, pheasants appear to be less common in landscapes with as little as 20% tree coverage, even when local habitat conditions are otherwise ideal. This may be because they perceive trees as the wrong habitat or because wooded areas house more predators. In either case, understanding how landscape conditions limit local habitat suitability can explain why management actions sometimes fail and help guide future management efforts in Nebraska and beyond. For more information please visit the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit home page


Greater Prairie Chicken Habitat Selection and Productivity in Southeast Nebraska Landscapes
Ty Mathews, Larkin Powell University of Nebraska - Lincoln, and Jeff Lusk; NGPC

The Greater Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cuipdo pinnatus) has potential to benefit from conversion of crop ground to grassland through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP grasslands may provide nesting and brood rearing habitat, an important component of population persistence. Managers and policy makers lack evidence of CRPs relative contribution to populations of Greater Prairie-chicken. We radio-collared 100 hens in 20062007 in Johnson County to quantify the effect CRP has on habitat selection and nest and brood survival. Nesting hens selected nest sites in both warm- and cool-season CRP over other habitat types (Fig. 1). Nest success was also twice as high in CRP fields compared to other types of grassland. Nesting hens also selected and survived better in areas with higher amounts of forbs like alfalfa and red clover. Prairie-chicken hens selected cool-season CRP, along with and increase in forbs and bare ground while raising their young.
0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 Range Crop Coolseason CRP Warm- Pasture season CRP

Nest Habitat Selection

Available Used

Insect and Vegetation Responses to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Fields in Eastern Nebraska
Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
Background In the spring of 2000, the Wildlife Division of Nebraska Game and Parks recognized the need for information regarding the effects of light disking and interseeding with regard to pheasant brood habitat components on CRP fields. These management actions are required on CRP fields enrolled in the Commissions CRP-Management Access Program (CRP-MAP). The goal of management is to improve nesting and brood rearing habitat on portions of these fields. The most important desired improvement was an increase in insect abundance. Pheasants and many other grassland birds depend heavily upon insects in their diets during the summer. Desired vegetative improvements included increases in visual obstruction, plant diversity, and canopy coverage measurements. We sampled insects and vegetation in portions of CRP fields with and without the disking and interseeding treatment to determine the effects of this management technique. Methods We sampled 4 different field types. 1) CRP fields planted to cool season grasses, with a portion of the field disked and interseeded with legumes (alfalfa, yellow sweetclover, and/or red clover), 2) CRP fields planted to warm season grasses, with a portion of the field disked and interseeded with legumes, 3) either cool or warm season CRP fields with a portion of the field planted to a high diversity seed mixture (CP-25), and 4) native prairie hay fields. Transects were located > 20 m from field borders and ran parallel to the edge. We used sweep nets to collect insects. We made 50 sweeps along each transect. Highlights of Results We acquired samples from 22 fields. In CRP fields, insect abundance was higher in treatment portions of both cool season and warm season fields. Insect abundance in CP-25 plantings was similar to those in control portions of the fields. Line to line variability in insect abundance was relatively high but field to field variability was relatively low. This suggested an uneven distribution of insects within fields. If future sampling is done, an increased number of sample lines per field is suggested to reduce variability of mean abundance measurements. Significant increases in both visual obstruction (height and density) and forb (broad-leafed plants) to grass ratios were observed on both cool season and warm season CRP fields that were disked and interseeded with legumes. Litter (dead plant material) decreased significantly after treatment. This technique quickly improved nesting habitat (structurally) for pheasants and many other grassland dependent bird species. The reduction in litter and increase in insect abundance appears to have made these tracts more attractive for foraging and brood rearing as well. As such, this technique shows promise for improving wildlife habitat on older CRP stands that have lost vegetative diversity.


Table 1. Mean biomass (g) of invertebrates sampled in several herbaceous community types in Nebraska during summer, 2000. Measurements represent the total biomass collected along 3 50-m transects per field; sample sizes are the number of fields.

Untreated Portion of Field Field Type Cool-season CRP Warm-season CRP CP-25 and adjacent CRP Native prairie n
6 6 5 5

Interseeded or High Diversity Portion of Field Mean

9.07 9.31 4.85

3.94 2.66 5.74 8.21

0.81 0.97 1.76 2.48

1.53 1.71 2.90

Light disking and interseeding to improve brood habitat

Ron Leathers Pheasants Forever, Inc. Pheasants are early-successional species, relying heavily on a combination of grasses and weedy forbs to produce seed and insect food sources. In particular, pheasant hens and chicks are heavily dependant on insects as a primary food source during spring nesting and summer broodrearing. Hens must eat insect foods to meet their needs for high levels of calcium and protein to produce eggs. Pheasant chicks are almost solely dependant on insects throughout their first summer to meet their needs for high calorie, high protein foods to reach maturity by winter. As grasses grow, they tend to choke out these weedy forb species and can become nearly pure stands of a single grass species, leaving pheasants and other birds without the food sources and diversity they need to fully reach their population potential. Nebraskas CRP-Management Access Program is a joint program of Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that promotes management of aging CRP grasslands to set back grass growth and encourage reestablishment of forb species. The specific management practice that is used for this program is light disking and interseeding legumes (typically alfalfa, sweetclover, and red clover). Some of the highlights of a 2001 & 2002 study on the CRP-MAP programs management practices are presented below. Invertebrates: Managed fields had a much higher availability of insects and invertebrates than idle fields. The increase was particularly pronounced in the native grass stands. Idle native grasses had the lowest overall availability of invertebrates, translating into the least available food source for pheasant chicks. However, managed native grasses had the highest availability of invertebrates and the 31 most food sources for chicks. Although less pronounced than in the natives, brome fields also had more invertebrates when managed than when left idle.

Available invertebrates

Biomass (mg)

2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Idle Managed Brome 1918.9 2334.3 Native 531.6 2757.7 Idle Managed

Mean %

Vegetation changes: Managed fields had more legume cover than idle fields. Without management, the average percent cover of legumes was less than 2% in brome fields and 0.5% in native grasses. After management, legumes accounted for roughly 1/3rd of the total cover in brome fields and 1/6th of the cover in native grasses. Managed fields also had more forb cover (including the planted legumes and any volunteer weedy forbs) than idle fields. Planted legumes accounted for the majority of the forb cover in managed fields. Again, the percentage of forbs in idle fields was extremely low (<5% in brome and <10% in natives) compared to the percentage in managed fields (36% in brome and 28% in natives). One major concern of landowners is that disturbance of the soil surface by light disking and interseeding could lead to increased noxious weed growth. I found no evidence to suggest that the disking and interseeding activity promoted any more growth of noxious weeds than would occur naturally in idle fields. The average in all fields was less than 0.25% on all our study sites. These concerns are not unfounded, however, as I have seen fields with major histories of noxious weed problems that got much worse when disked and I suggest not conducting management activities on those portions of fields with a history of noxious weed problems to avoid any possibility of future problems.

Planted legume cover

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Brome Native Idle Managed

Total % forb cover

40 35 30

Mean %

25 20 15 10 5 0 Brome Native

Idle Managed

Percent cover noxious weeds

Idle 2001 2002 0 < 0.1 Brome Managed < 0.1 0 Idle 0 < 0.1 Natives Managed < 0.1 0.2

Summary: Light disking and interseeding legumes as a management practice for aging CRP fields tends to produce more diverse cover with a higher proportion of legumes and forbs. Subsequently, invertebrate biomass is also higher in managed fields. The result is better brood rearing cover for pheasants and other grassland nesting birds with more diverse vegetation and a greater amount of spring and summer 32 food resources for nesting hens and chicks.

Insect Response to Disking and Interseeding Legumes on Conservation Reserve Program Lands in Northeast Nebraska
Jamie Bachmann, Oklahoma State University, Scott Taylor, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Lucas Negus, Oklahoma State University. Insects are important food resources for many grassland birds. A survey was conducted in 2004 to determine insect abundance, biomass and diversity in treated vs. untreated fields as part of the Grassland Bird Study in the Stanton County Focus On Pheasants study area. Eight of the sixteen fields used for the grassland bird study were chosen randomly for insect sampling. Of those eight, four were disked and interseeded with yellow sweet clover, alfalfa, and red clover; and four were control fields that received no treatment. Using a sweep net, three sub-samples of twenty sweeps each were taken along 200 meter transects within each field. Samples were preserved sorted, identified, dried, and weighed for biomass over the fall and winter of 2004-2005. Preliminary statistics have been preformed to compare insect samples between treated and untreated fields. Previous research has shown grasshoppers, butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders as being the main food resource for grassland bird hatchlings. Graph 1 compares the total abundance of these insects for July samples between treated and non-treated fields. Treated fields had an insect abundance of 2,951 and non-treated fields had an abundance of 1,021. Graph 2 compares the biomass, or dry weight, of the same insects. Treated fields have nearly three times more biomass than non-treated fields.

Insect Abundance Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields

3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Treated Not Treated

Insect Biomas Treated Vs. Non Treated Fields

Biomass (mg)


20 15 10 5 0 Treated Not Treated

Graph 1. Abundance of insects favored by grassland birds in treated (disked/interseeded) and unmanaged fields.

33 Graph 2. Biomass (dry weight) of insects favored by grassland birds in treated (disked/interseeded) and unmanaged fields.

Ring-neck Pheasant Habitat Selection and Productivity in Landscapes Containing Disked and Interseeded CRP in Northeast Nebraska
Ty Mathews and Larkin Powell University of Nebraska - Lincoln A decline in the quality and quantity of ring-necked pheasant nesting and brood-rearing habitat has been hypothesized as a major factor limiting population growth in the Great Plains. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was thought to reestablish this valuable habitat, but population response was smaller than anticipated. Pheasant populations in Nebraska rose in the first 5-6 years of CRP then declined thereafter. This decline is thought to be due to the change of vegetation composition in these fields. Newly planted CRP fields (5 to 6 years) contain a high diversity of grasses, forbs, legumes, and annual weeds with an abundance of bare ground needed by nesting pheasant hens and their broods. Older fields (>6 years) are characterized by dense monoculture of grass with little bare ground and thick litter. Disking and interseeding forbs into older CRP fields re-create the conditions found in the newly planted fields. Objectives Compare habitat use of pheasant hens and their broods in CRP fields that have been disked and interseeded to unmanaged CRP fields and other grasslands Compare chick survival in CRP fields that have been disked and interseeded to unmanaged CRP fields and other grasslands Determine the insect diet of pheasant chicks in all field types

CR P N e s t Su c c e s s
2005 Interseeded Non-interseeded 2006 Interseeded Non-interseeded 53.3% (n=15) 37.5% (n=16)

60.0% 33.3%

(n=10) (n=18)

--from raw results (% nests successful)

B r o o d Su r v i v a l
Int model
% Time in Interseeded 0.05 0.1 0.1946 0.2 0.25 Survival 0.971 0.977 0.984 0.985 0.987 21-day 0.544 0.610 0.716 0.721 0.767

N e s t Su r v i v a l
Raw Nest Success Interseeded: 65% Non-interseeded: 55% Other: 42% Daily Nest Survival Interseeded: 0.982 Non-interseeded: 0.977 Other: 0.964 (95% CI= 0.963-.0992) (95% CI= 0.956-0.987) (95% CI= 0.909-0.987) (n=20) (n=20) (n=7)

Co n c l u s i o n s
Interseeding CRP provides reproductive


Hens select interseeded CRP for nesting Nest survival tends to be higher in interseeded areas

Hens with broods tend to prefer

interseeded CRP forb content

Hens with broods selected areas with high


Grassland bird response to disking/interseeding of legumes in Conservation Reserve Program lands in Northeast Nebraska
Lucas Negus and Craig A. Davis Oklahoma State University Grassland bird populations are declining faster than any other group of birds. These declines have been attributed to the loss of prairie habitat. With the tremendous losses of native prairie throughout the Midwest, surrogate grasslands such as CRP have become increasingly more important to grassland wildlife. While game birds are most commonly thought of as being the main beneficiaries, nongame grassland songbirds also benefit from CRP. Recently, several studies have attributed population increases, or at least stable trends, in specific grassland bird species to CRP. In May of 2002, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever, Inc. initiated a program to curb declining ring-necked pheasant populations in the state. The program, entitled Focus on Pheasants, placed an emphasis on creating nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the aging CRP fields by disking and interseeding legumes. Although improving pheasant habitat is the primary objective, grassland birds will likely benefit from the habitat manipulations as well. These habitat upgrades provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate grassland bird population response to this management practice. Funding for this study was provided through the Nebraska State Wildlife Grant program. State Wildlife Grants provide funding for management practices and research that benefit at-risk wildlife species. Objectives: To compare grassland bird richness and abundance in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP fields unmanaged. To compare grassland bird nest productivity in CRP fields disked/interseeded to CRP fields unmanaged. To evaluate differences in vegetation structure, composition, and cover between CRP fields disked/interseeded and CRP fields unmanaged. Beginning in May 2004, grassland bird abundance and nest productivity were sampled in 16 fields throughout the Stanton County focus area. Eight fields were disked and interseeded and served as experimental fields. Eight fields in which no disking and interseeding was performed serve as control fields. Surveys were conducted May through July, 2004, and will continue May through July, 2005.


Results - 2004: Grassland bird species observed during surveys include eastern and western meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows, Henslows sparrows, Dickcissels, sedge wrens, bobolinks, field sparrows, common yellowthroats, brown-headed cowbirds, and northern harriers. Other bird species using the CRP include redwing blackbirds, barn swallows, rough-winged swallows, eastern kingbirds, mallards, blue-winged teal, ring-necked pheasants, northern bobwhite, and mourning doves. Bird surveys from the 2004 field season indicate some important differences. Several grassland bird species, including Dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows, were more abundant in experimental fields than control fields. Dickcissels were 3 times more abundant in experimental fields. Experimental fields had a species richness of 24, compared to a richness of 18 in control fields. Several differences between treatments were also seen in nesting behavior. Of 100 nests found throughout the field season, 88 were in experimental fields. Additionally, nest densities were 3 times greater in experimental fields. Nest success was 37-40% in both experimental and control fields. Differences in vegetation characteristics were also observed. The control field vegetation was composed of only 1.5% forbs and 2% bare ground. Conversely, experimental fields were composed of 25% forbs and 25% bare ground. Litter (dead material in contact with the ground) was two times deeper in control fields than experimental. Finally, vegetation height was relatively uniform in control fields, ranging from 34 to 71 cm throughout the summer. Vegetation height in experimental fields varied greatly, from 24 to 90 cm, indicating a diversity of heights throughout the field. Bird surveys and nest searches resumed in May of this summer, with some slight modifications. Nest searches have been intensified to achieve the goal of finding 200 nests. Following this summers field season, results from the two field seasons will be compiled, analyzed, interpreted, and reported.

Gr a ssl a n d B i r d Co n cl u si o n s
Disked/interseeded fields supported higher abundances and more species than undisked fields Disking/interseeding created vegetation response that attracted diverse assemblage of grassland birds Nest densities appeared to be higher in disked/interseeded fields, but no difference in nest success Mature brome stands were still important, particularly to Henslows Sparrows and Bobolinks

Ov e r a l l Co n c l u s i o n s
Planted grasslands are important for wildlife species Mid-contract management is important in grass dominated, aged CRP fields Disking and interseeding legumes is an effective management technique A wide array of wildlife (both game and nongame) and organisms benefit from management Management is needed in the future to maintain/enhance the wildlife habitat CRP fields provide as they progress through the life of their contract





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Attention Landowners!

Open Fields and Waters Might Be for You!!

Do you want to earn additional income on your property?

Benefits to Landowners
Receive annual per-acre payments for allowing walk-in hunting access through the OFW program Higher payment rates now available in the South-Central Focus on Pheasants (FOP) Area Payment rates depend on habitat type: CRP = $8/acre, Riparian Woodland = $12/acre, Tall Wheat/ Milo Stubble = $3/acre, etc. Receive protection under the Nebraska Recreation Liability Act Boundary signs are posted and main*For a Free OFW Estimate on Your Property* tained by Nebraska Game & Parks Contact Nebraska Game & Parks Commission Commission

308-928-2541 (John Laux) or 308-865-5308 (Justin Haahr)

Open Fields and Waters Might Be for You!!

South Central FOP Area

43 Help support your local economy by increasing public hunting opportunities!!

A grass stand that has been dominated by smooth bromegrass and lost its productivity for upland wildlife. An area that was excellent wildlife habitat in the past has now naturally moved through succession to a more mature grass stand in need of management.

On April 7, 2004, the grass stand is disked with three passes and then interseeded with a legume mixture. A minimum of three passes with a disk was necessary with a mature stand of bromegrass but still leaves more than 50% residue.

On July 29, 2004, the area now has a wide diversity of plant species, has an open understory, supports plants that attract insects, and is once again a diverse grassland. The legumes that were interseeded into the disked area are already present and providing brood-rearing habitat for pheasants as well as a diverse habitat for all types of grassland birds.

On May 30, 2005, the area now shows the true value of performing upgrades on mature grass stand. The area is providing excellent nesting and brood-rearing cover for a wide range of wildlife, especially pheasant, quail, waterfowl and grassland songbirds with 22 of undisturbed grass and forb cover.