Field Report: Rebound Iowa
Spring turkey and mushroom hunters first noticed the change in Iowa’s pheasant population. An open mild winter helped bring plenty of healthy roosters and hens into the spring nesting season. Turkey hunters commented on hearing many more crowing roosters this spring – at least compared to the past couple years.
Caution, this spring’s success is not a return to pheasant or quail glory days. Not even close. It will take two, maybe three more good nesting seasons to get Iowa’s pheasant population back. But spring of 2012 was a start – a much needed start back.
Next came the emails and phone calls about “early broods,” young pheasants hatching as early as April. A very warm and mild March brought on some incredible early nesting and by the end of April we had chicks on the ground. May and June just helped with more good weather for nesting birds.
The word among biologists was simple, “There may not be many hens left in Iowa, but I think every single one is having a successful brood this year.”
One of the best indicators for good nesting years is hearing the general public talk about how the pheasants are having “two or three broods this year”. Pheasants have only one brood. When we see young chicks of different sizes along the road it means that pheasants that have a nest predated or destroyed – they are trying again – and they are successful. That is a great sign of more pheasants in the fall!
August roadside counts brought even better news for pheasant and quail in Iowa. Broods with nearly mature chicks! Hatching year chicks (chicks that hatched this spring) had nearly all their adult colors. This means that first nesting attempts were very successful across Iowa – the best indicator for increased populations of pheasants in the fall.
It has been a tough 7 years. Raise a glass and toast this tough old bird – winters that were “off the charts”, springs that never stopped raining. Yet our pheasants and quail keep coming back. Give them habitat and some decent weather.
This report was written by Matt O’Connor, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Conservation Programs for Iowa. Results from Iowa’s August roadside survey will be included in Pheasants Forever’s annual Pheasant Hunting Forecast, due out in early September. To receive this preseason outlook, sign up here.
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