Rose Township, center of pheasant nesting study
SDSU grad student Brian Pauly studies pheasant’s use of winter wheat for nesting.Pauly stands by his pickup outfitted to track radio signals from tagged pheasants in Rose Township. The radio device that is attached to a pheasant hen’s neck is weighted to hang down in front and the antenna sticks up behind the hen’s head. Read more in the June 29th issue of the Lyman County Herald.
Pheasants are known to nest in CRP fields each spring and hatch their broods, but do hens find winter wheat fields just as accommodating?
South Dakota State University graduate student Brian Pauly is studying that question this summer and will write his thesis on the results. The two year study will take place in Lyman County this summer and Sully County next summer.
Earlier this year Pauly and technician Josh Jensen visited Rose Township southeast of Presho and trapped and marked approximately 130 pheasant hens. Radio tracking collars were attached to the hens in order to follow them throughout the nesting season.
Pauly and Jensen returned to the area in late April to start tracking the hens. Lyman County residents may have noticed a blue pickup with a large antenna attached to the roof and a 4-wheeler in the box traveling the country roads southeast of Presho as Pauly follows the marked hens.
“I’ve been surprised at how far they travel,” said Pauly while visiting the Herald office last Thursday. Pauly said that the furthest any of the birds have traveled is about 10 miles. Typically the hens haven’t traveled more than a couple of miles from where they were tagged in Rose Township.
Of the 130 collared birds only about 80 remain active as of June 23.
“Predators got after them pretty good this spring,” said Pauly.
Pauly must determine the whereabouts of each hen. Each tracking device has two signals. If there is no movement in six hours the morality signal activates and Pauly must track down the bird and determine what caused its demise.
“We make contact with every hen, every other day,” said Pauly.
There are only six hens that he has lost total contact with and has no explanation as to what happened to them.
“A predator could have drug it into a burrow or hole which could block the radio signal,” said Pauly.
The pheasants will be monitored and followed throughout the hatch. Pauly believes the hatch should peak this week.
“It’s later than normal,” said Pauly.
Pauly and Jensen will place small radios on approximately 60 chicks during the study. The radios are sutured to the chick’s back with a couple of loose stitches.
The chick radios have a life span of just 60 days, long enough to track the chicks survival from hatch until the annual GFP’s brood survey, which is completed in late summer.
About 30 rooster pheasants were captured, tagged and released also. While they don’t have the radio collars, the band has a telephone number printed on it. If shot this fall, Pauly hopes the hunter would call the number on the band to report what day and where the bird was harvested.
When asked why Lyman County was picked for the study, Pauly replied, “It probably has the highest number of pheasants in the state. The number of winter wheat acres was also a factor.
“Everyone in the area has been willing to help out,” said Pauly, who added that they got behind in tracking during the heavy rain.
Pauly’s adviser for the project is Professor Chuck Dieter from the Biology & Microbiology Dept. SDSU has partnered with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for this study.
“We know that winter wheat makes good habitat for ducks,” said Pauley.
Pauly’s study will help determine if winter wheat, which remains largely undisturbed throughout the pheasant nesting period, has the potential to produce significant numbers of pheasants each year, also.
Information gathered from Pauly’s study will provide wildlife managers with valuable insight into the potential of winter wheat habitats.
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