This Looks Like a Good Spot to Nest
It is the time of year when hen pheasants are sitting on their nests in the northern states, or trying to after a cold and wet spring.
This is also the time when hens are most vulnerable to the elements and predators. This is why Pheasants Forever puts such a big emphasis on the importance of quality nesting habitat that consists of contiguous acres of grasslands. But when those acres are not available, that hen will find anything she can to lay her eggs down for the year. In some cases, these areas can seem rather odd and leave you scratching your head as to why the spot was chosen.
I travel a lot and study pheasants on a regular basis. This is why I have to ask myself, “Why would a pheasant nest in a flower pot, or in someone’s front yard?” These are two areas that we don’t speak of too much as habitat, but in the above cases these were the only areas available for that bird to lay her eggs. These are also areas where the chances of survival will be very low.
Pheasants prefer to nest in grasslands, and as such prefer blocks of cover to protect her and her young. They will be found in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) areas, pastures, grasslands, and even in road ditches. This is why many states encourage no mowing until mid-summer when the eggs are hatched and the chicks can get away. Still, mowing ditches is a common practice that destroys thousands of eggs and pheasants per year.
How important is CRP to pheasant and wildlife populations? This graph from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows how pheasants responded to two different time periods: the first being Soil Bank Program years (of the late 1950s and early 1960s) and the second being our present CRP years (1985 to present):
The importance of grasslands in America is why Pheasants Forever advocates for them on state and national levels. Support for these efforts can be made by supporting your local Pheasants Forever chapter, and for more information on grassland programs and habitat advice, contact a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist near 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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