Christian A. Hagen, James C. Pitman, Robert J. Robel, Thomas M. Loughin, Roger D. Applegate
Wildlife Biology 13 (sp1), 34-41, (1 July 2007) https://doi.org/10.2981/0909-6396(2007)13[34:NPBLPT]2.0.CO;2
KEYWORDS: lesser prairie-chickens, niche partitioning, Phasianus colchicus, ring-necked pheasant, southwestern Kansas, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus
We conducted this 2-year study to determine if lesser prairie-chickens Tympanuchus pallidicinctus and ring-necked pheasants Phasianus colchicus used the same habitats where their ranges overlapped in southwestern Kansas. Telemetry locations of 50 transmitter-equipped lesser prairie-chickens and 28 pheasants were used to monitor habitat use by the two species. Additionally, vegetation characteristics at 39 nest sites of lesser prairie-chickens were compared to those at 14 pheasant nest sites. Morisita's Index of niche overlap detected moderate similarities of habitat mixes used by lesser prairie-chickens and pheasants, but location data showed that spatial use of those habitats differed. Vegetation structure around nest sites of the two species differed significantly indicating selection of different habitat for nesting birds, and lesser prairie-chickens nested far from the outer edges of native prairie whereas pheasants nested nearer the outer edges. Despite the modest amount of similarity in mixes of habitats used by lesser prairie-chickens and ring-necked pheasants, we conclude that the two species occupy separate niches given the current extent of habitat in southwestern Kansas. However, if additional habitat loss or fragmentation occurs pheasants may gain competitive advantage over lesser prairie-chickens. Thus, we recommend maintaining and conserving large blocks of native habitat as well as the connectivity between them as a management strategy for maintaining populations of lesser prairie-chickens.