Gamebird chick survival is dependent on invertebrate availability, and the ability to access insect prey is an important characteristic defining brood habitat quality. Different mixes of warm-season grasses and forbs were established to improve the habitat quality of fields enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for gamebirds in the Southern Plains. We analyzed the feeding ecology of human-imprinted, 4- to 10-day-old ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) chicks in wheat fields and 4 types of conservation practices (CP) fields enrolled in CRP (CP10, improved CP10, CP2, and CP25) in western Kansas, USA, during June and July, 2004 and 2005. Foraging rates were greatest for bobwhite chicks in improved CP10 and CP25 fields and greatest for pheasant chicks in CP10 and CP25 fields. Vegetation characteristics such as bare ground cover appear to have a significant impact on insect selection, because the diet was more diverse for both species in fields with more bare ground. The CP25 fields provided the best combination of mobility and diet breadth for both species. Although herbicide-treated wheat fields had low feeding rates, we determined non–herbicide-treated fields (i.e., weedy wheat) provided easy mobility and feeding rates similar to CRP fields. We suggest that management of vegetation to benefit gamebirds does not affect species equally. Feeding rates of bobwhite chicks were sensitive to vegetation-influenced mobility. Management of CRP fields for both pheasant and bobwhite chicks can be reconciled by practices that permit more open space at ground level, such as light disking or burning, to permit easier movement for chicks.
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Vol. 74 • No. 2