Date of this Version
Published in The Journal of Wildlife Management 76:8 (November 2012), pages 1653–1660; doi: 10.1002/jwmg.410
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has provided critical wildlife habitat for many species since 1985. However, the quality of this habitat for early successional species, such as ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), may decrease with field age. Late successional grasslands may lack valuable vegetative and structural diversity needed by pheasants, especially during nesting and brood-rearing stages. Since 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture has required new CRP contracts to include plans for mid-contract management, which could include discing and interseeding. The benefits of such practices have not been assessed, and continuation of current policy could be affected by the lack of information to support such practices. During 2005–2006 we evaluated nesting and brood-rearing habitat used by radio-marked hen pheasants in areas of northeastern Nebraska where portions of CRP fields had been recently disced and interseeded with legumes. Pheasant hens selected managed portions of CRP fields for both nesting and brood-rearing. Hens selected nest sites with greater forb cover and vertical density. Hens with broods also selected sites with greater forb composition. Discing and legume interseeding appeared to be an effective strategy for increasing pheasant use of CRP fields.