Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version

Winter 12-4-2009

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor in Philosophy, Major: Natural Resource Sciences; Under the Supervision of Professors Larkin Powell and Andrew Tyre
Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Ty Matthews


Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and Greater Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) populations have declined in the Midwest since the 1960’s. Research has suggested decreased nest and brood survival are the major causes of this decline due to the lack of suitable habitat. Habitat degradation has been attributed to the shift to larger crop fields, lower diversity of crops, and more intensive pesticide and herbicide use. A primary goal of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is to mitigate the loss of wildlife habitat. Early research found that CRP increased the amount of suitable nesting and brood rearing cover for both species but the habitat may start to deteriorate later in the contract. From 2005 to 2006, I studied nest and brood habitat selection and survival of Ring-necked Pheasants in an area where portions of CRP fields had been disced and interseeded in order to rejuvenate the grass stand and to set it back to an early successional stage. I found pheasant hens selected areas in disced and interseeded CRP (DI-CRP) to nest and rear broods over other grassland types. Within fields, I found hens selected areas with high forb content and vegetation density. I also found pheasant nests and broods had an higher survival rate in DI-CRP fields. From 2007 to 2008, I studied nest and brood habitat selection and survival of Greater Prairie-chickens in an area where the population seemed to rebound after the introduction of CRP. I found hens selected nest sites in CRP fields and these nests had an higher success rate compared to other habitat types. Greater Prairie-chicken broods also selected CRP fields; however, a disproportionate time spent in these fields did not correspond to advantages in brood survival. Higher forb cover corresponded to higher survival of both nests and broods. My research suggests CRP plays an integral part in fulfilling the habitat requirements of these upland game birds. Although beneficial, CRP should be managed to optimize benefit to wildlife.