Nesting habitat is a limiting factor for pheasant populations in much of the Great Plains. Pheasants select for and are generally most successful nesting in managed grasslands such as those established by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Pheasants will nest in hay and cereal crop fields, but grain and forage harvest can reduce nesting success in those land-use types. An understanding of pheasant reproductive ecology in landscapes containing many potential nesting habitats is important for management recommendations. We used data from 123 ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) nests during 2011–2012 to study nest-site selection and success in relation to land use type and landscape features in central South Dakota. Pheasants were 66% more likely to select CRP grassland than winter wheat for nest sites, and used spring wheat and other land-use types at a lower rate. Nest success was similar among land-use types, declined throughout the season, and declined in winter wheat as harvest progressed. Overall nest success (percentage of nests with ≥1 hatched egg) was 51% (95% CI: 40–58) and was the highest recorded in South Dakota. Our results validate past research that found high nest survival in landscapes with large patches of nesting habitat. Although harvest did destroy some re-nest attempts in winter wheat, nest success and nesting chronology was similar to CRP grassland. Our results suggest pheasant populations would benefit from establishment of large blocks of CRP grassland or cereal grains, especially winter wheat, in agricultural landscapes.


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pp. 39-50
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