How does land-use influence how pheasants are distributed on the landscape?
In the spring of 2010-2012, we counted pheasants in locations across the entire state of Nebraska. Combining what we know about where we found pheasants and what we know about the land use in those areas, we were able to build maps which can predict where we're most likely to find pheasants. And the maps tell us more: turns out, the neighborhood is important, too. Leaving crop stubble and making sure farmland surrounding CRP fields has few trees make it more likely that pheasants will use available habitat.
The neighborhood may be important during the breeding season, too. The landscape surrounding CRP fields may influence how well nest predators find pheasant nests, according to a study conducted by graduate student Vicki Simonson.
Publications and Theses:
Jorgensen, C.F., L.A. Powell, J.J. Lusk, A.A. Bishop, and J.J. Fontaine. 2014. Assessing landscape constraints on species abundance: Does the neighborhood limit species response to local habitat conservation programs? PLos One 9:e99339 PDF
Jorgensen, C. F. 2012. Assessing Local and Landscape Constraints on Habitat Management for Grassland and Upland Birds. MS Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE. PDF
Simonson, V. Examining the Influence of Landscape Context on Nest Survival. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE. PDF
How do pheasants respond to hunters during the hunting season?
To understand how hunting influences pheasant behavior, we've been tracking pheasants in Southwest Nebraska since 2012. Radio-collars on male and female pheasants tell us where the birds move from day to day, and allow us to calculate a home-range size for individuals. So far, we've found that both male and female pheasants may respond to hunters in fields. Even though females are never harvested, they appear to increase the size of their home range when the hunting season starts.What we've done so far provides insight into how pheasant home ranges respond to hunters in fields with more hunting pressure, but how sensitive are pheasants to the movement of hunters within the fields themselves? We are currently addressing these questions as part of our study of hunter movements in Southwest Nebraska.
Publications and Theses:Messinger, L. 2015. Habitat and Site Selection of Pheasants and their Hunters During the Hunting Season. MS Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. PDF
Does hunting continue to influence pheasants in the spring?
While studying pheasant behavior during the hunting season tell us a lot about how hunting pressure influences habtiat decisions, it doesn't tell us the whole story. For wildlife, events during one part of the year can often "carry-over" to influence how individuals behave in the future. To track how hunting pressure influences pheasant populations even after hunters are gone, we continue to monitor and track hen pheasants in Southwest Nebraska during the breeding season.
Publications and Theses:
Laskowski, J. Fear Effects on Pheasant Reproductive Ecology and a Curriculum to Teach Wildlife Habitat Selection. MS Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE. PDF