SURVEY SUGGESTS NESTING PHEASANT NUMBERS STABLE
One-percent increase insignificant; fall bird numbers depend on nesting success
PRATT — From April 25-May 21, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) conducted its annual spring survey of pheasants in the Sunflower State. As the mating season approaches, roosters increase crowing, and KDWP staff drive established routes to listen for the birds. Data from this survey, combined with the summer brood count survey in August, helps determine the outlook for the fall pheasant crop.
This year's spring survey period was six days later than normal due to poor weather. Overall, numbers along 22 of the 46 comparable routes increased, 22 decreased, and two were unchanged from last year. Rangewide, the 2010 Pheasant Crowing Survey (PCS) index was 19.3 crows per station, a statistically insignificant increase of 1 percent from last year.
In the northwest, 12 routes were surveyed, 11 by the same observers as in 2009, and the crowing birds counted increased 3 percent from 2009.
In northcentral Kansas, 11 of 12 routes were surveyed, yielding an average of 13 crows per station, a 17 percent decrease from last year. Smith County was not surveyed.
In the northeast, 10 routes were surveyed, nine by 2009 observers, yielding a regional PCS index of 6.3 crows per station, an 8 percent increase over 2009.
In southwest Kansas, 17 of 18 routes were completed, 12 by last year's observers, with a PCS index of 22.5 crows per station, a 9 percent decrease from last year.
Eight of the 9 survey routes were successfully surveyed in southcentral Kansas this spring, with a 7.3 PCS index. Five routes had the same observers as in 2009. The five comparable routes increased 53 percent overall. Kingman and Reno counties were not surveyed.
Although the winter of 2009-10 was generally colder and produced more snow than average, conditions were not severe enough to significantly impact pheasant populations. As is typical, regional changes in the PCS indices this year largely reflect weather conditions during the 2009 reproductive period. The only region to experience a significant decline was the northcentral region where excessive heavy rains during the 2009 late nesting and early brood-rearing periods reduced production.
“Despite what appeared to be excellent nesting and brood-rearing conditions in the northwest, there was little change in the index from 2009 to 2010, possibly suggesting that the excellent population in the region is near carrying capacity,” said retiring KDWP research biologist Randy Rodgers in his last report for the agency. “Somewhat surprising was the significant increase in the southcentral region. Pheasant harvest reports last fall were better than expected in the southcentral region, but the strong increase may have been influenced by the fact that only five of the nine survey routes in the region could be used for the 2009-2010 comparison. Although the increase in the southwest regional index was modest and not statistically significant, it is likely the increase was real and reflected the improved spring moisture and breeding conditions in the region in 2009, following drought during the 2008 nesting and brood-rearing periods.”
As always, the number of birds available during the fall hunting season depends not only on the number of breeding birds but on nesting conditions in May and June. Locally heavy rainfall in June may have impacted chicks in some areas, but the picture won’t be complete until the summer brood count survey is completed and the results compiled. These results will be available on the KDWP website in mid-September.