Pinpointing Pheasant Needs: Dense Nesting Cover
Here at the The Big Spur Blog I talk frequently of nesting cover and its importance to wildlife populations. This is especially important for pheasant reproduction success, even more than winter cover. Pheasants are tough birds and can survive very harsh winters with adequate cover, but nesting conditions are what ensure there will be pheasants around to survive when winter rolls in.
Hens will nest anywhere they can in the spring, but in order to make nesting efforts as successful as possible, we need to know what pheasants require. Studies have shown that 20 acre blocks of cover are ideal for nesting hens, and many grass compositions provide moderate to good cover. But the really good stuff consists of plant species that both provide vertical cover and provide a food source for the nesting hen and chicks.
We refer to this as “Dense Nesting Cover” (DNC). DNC is a great component for new CRP contracts, and can also be established with relative ease. DNC can consist of native or introduced grasses and forbs. Both native and introduced mixes consist of four species to six species.
An example of a native mixture includes green needlegrass, Canada wildrye, western wheatgrass, Illinois bundleflower and purple prairie clover.
An introduced DNC mix includes tall wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, alfalfa and sweet clover.
Native and introduced mixes are readily available at seed dealerships around the country. Generally speaking, introduced mixes are cheaper and easier to establish on your property. Both mixes have a grass component for cover, and a forb component to attract insects for a pheasant food source. Insects comprise more than 90 percent of chicks’ diet up to six weeks of age.
When planning your next pheasant habitat project, think DNC. The birds will thank you!
The Big Spur Blog is written by Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist for North Dakota. If you have a pheasant habitat or pheasant biology question for Jesse, email him at JBeckers@pheasantsforever.org.
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