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Tuesday, January 30 • 9:20am - 9:40am
UPLAND GAME BIRDS & POLLINATORS: Do Pheasants Use Spring Cover Crops?

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AUTHORS. Alixandra Godar, Adela Annis - Kansas State University/Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; David Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Jeff Prendergast, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

ABSTRACT. Agricultural producers are besieged with information about potential benefits of spring cover crops for their fields, but struggle to find information about benefits for wildlife. In western Kansas, many landowners not only manage their property for agricultural production but also for ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) habitat. Declining pheasant populations have raised questions about potential, affordable management strategies for landowners to aide local pheasant populations. Managers have theorized that spring cover crops, used when transitioning between a summer row crop, primarily corn (Zea mays) or sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), to winter wheat (Triticum aestivum), may provide nesting and brood rearing cover for pheasants and other birds. We divided three fields into 4 treatments, including a chemical fallow control plot and three cover crop mixes. Hens were captured in close proximity to cover crop treatment fields and outfitted with 15-g very-high-frequency necklace-style radio transmitters. During the 2017 breeding season, we monitored 21 radio-collared female pheasants and collected >1,500 locations. Triangulated locations were used to estimate home ranges using minimum convex polygon (MCP) and kernel density estimators (KDE). We assessed habitat use with both Resource Selection Functions and Resource Utilization Functions (RUF) focusing on the relative use of different cover crop mixes and other available cover types. Hens selected for Conservation Reserve Program/Grasslands at 2nd and 3rd order selection levels over all other cover types. The RUF found hens selected against growing crop and crop stubble. Hens selected for the cover crop mixes in the RUF. Among the cover crop mixes, GreenSpring, consisting of oats and cool season peas, had the largest selection ratios. Cover crops may benefit wildlife by providing habitat before and after termination. Our findings will allow agricultural producers and wildlife managers in Kansas to make informed decisions on how to positively affect pheasant populations.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 9:20am - 9:40am CST