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Googling and Computing Upland Birds

A computer modeling system has revealed previously unknown breeding grounds for lesser prairie chickens. Pheasants Forever File Photo

In Pheasants Forever’s first ever Pheasant Hunting Preview magazine, you’ll find the article “Google Scouting for Pheasants,” about the “how to’s” and benefits of pheasant hunters going high tech. Computers are also helping upland biologists advance upland conservation practices, as evidenced by a computer modeling system that recently revealed lesser prairie chickens in Kansas outside their current known range.

From the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism:

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) recently used Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) modeling software to target searches for lesser prairie chicken leks (breeding grounds) outside their current range in northwest Kansas. MaxEnt modeling can identify areas with a high probability of lek occurrence by analyzing presence-only data (not absence data), making it an ideal method for analyzing lek survey data.

“We used MaxEnt to identify areas that had a relatively high probability of occurrence outside the lesser’s known range and targeted those areas to survey,” says Jim Pitman, small game coordinator for KDWPT. “Finding chickens outside the known range allows us to more accurately delineate the range and better target conservation programs to ensure they are being implemented in areas where chickens have the best chance to benefit.”

The targeted surveys were successful in locating new lek sites and resulted in KDWPT extending the historic lesser prairie chicken range 30 miles north. Despite high winds making it difficult to detect leks, the biologists found both lesser and greater prairie chickens and greater/lesser prairie chicken hybrids, called “guessers,” present on 11 leks well outside the current known range of the species. They also located 23 leks occupied solely by greater prairie chickens and three leks in which species composition could not be identified…

…”MaxEnt is working really well, and we feel comfortable that this model is doing a good job of predicting where lessers occur,” Pitman explains. “Since we don’t have the manpower to survey every square inch of potential range, MaxEnt will be very useful for targeting our surveys, and most importantly, conservation programs in the future.”

Field Notes are written and compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.

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2 Responses to “Googling and Computing Upland Birds”

  1. Jay Kumar says:

    hey, we Google for birds — it works!

  2. Bill Fontanazza says:

    Jay, I’ve always found it better to Google for habitat. Googling for birds makes my eyes hurt.


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