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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Kent C. Jensen

Second Advisor

Kinchel D. Doerner


game-birds, habitat, nests, harvest effect on habitat, south dakota


The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America, an epicenter for breeding waterfowl in North America, contains only 10% of the continental breeding range but contributes to ≥ 50% of the ducks produced (Smith et al. 1964). Perennial, herbaceous plants of the PPR, such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) are currently being investigated for their potential use as a cellulosic bioenergy crop. This project investigated the possible effects of biomass harvest on nesting game birds. Specific objectives of this study in southeastern South Dakota included: (1) quantifying nest success to determine if haying treatments have an impact, (2) determining if haying treatments affect nesting density, (3) determining nest site selection characteristics of nesting game birds, and (4) determining if an auditory stimulus increases the nest finding success by flushing hen pheasants from their nests. A randomized block design consisting of 4 blocks with 5 plots per block in 2010 and 5 blocks with 3 plots per block in 2011 was established to determine harvest effects of warm season grasses for the production of cellulosic ethanol on game bird production. Three haying treatments (10-cm stubble, 30-cm stubble and a no-harvest control) were assigned randomly to fields harvested in the fall of 2009 and 2010 prior to sampling the subsequent summers. Nests were located, identified by species, and followed to completion using the chain dragging method. Analysis of variance indicated no significant difference among haying treatments for nest richness, number of nests, Pielou J evenness, and Shannon-Weiner diversity index. However, high intensity harvest resulted in delayed nest initiation of hen mallards (F2,9 = 5.44; P = 0.027) upwards of 29 days later than in non-harvested controls. Nesting density was affected (F2,6 = 4.97; P = 0.053) with the 30-cm treatment yielding the highest density of nests/hectare ( ̅= 0.34; SE = 0.07) followed by the no-harvest control (x = 0.19; SE = 0.07) and the most severe, 10-cm treatment (x = 0.13; SE = 0.07). Nest success was not affected by harvest intensity. Nest survival modeling indicated that survival held constant throughout the nesting period in addition to the additive effect of visual obstruction at the nest (β = -0.013; SE = 0.005) had a negative effect on daily survival rate. Logistic regression deemed three nesting variables significant at the nest and at the perimeter the nest (an average of 6m from the nest bowl). At the immediate vicinity of the nest, the amount of litter (ô = -0.0207; P= 0.0002), the relative humidity (ô = -0.0202; P = 0.0291) and the temperature, Cº, (ô = -0.0632; P = 0.0162) had a negative correlation with nest placement. At the perimeter (i.e., 6m from the nest bowl), statistical significance was found for the same variables: the amount of litter (ô = -0.0142; P= 0.0432), the relative humidity (ô = -0.0214; P= 0.0472), and the temperature (ô = - 0.0966; P= 0.0022). The use of an auditory stimulus did not affect the number of game birds flushed, the total number of game bird nests found, and the total number of ringnecked pheasant nests found, irrespective of stubble height and year. However, an auditory stimulus did affect the number of hen ring-necked pheasants flushed (F2,51 = 5.16; P = 0.009), irrespective of stubble height and year with a predator call causing significantly more hen ring-necked pheasants to flush (x = 1.11, SE = 0.18) than talk radio (x= 0.68, SE = 0.18) and the no-sound control (x̅ = 0.48, SE = 0.18).

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Game and game-birds -- Effect of habitat modification on -- South Dakota
Game and game bird -- Nests -- South Dakota
Game and game-birds -- Ecology -- South Dakota
Cellulosic ethanol
Energy crops
Cellulose -- Biotechnology


Includes bibliographical references (page 65-79)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2013 Alex James Solem. All rights reserved.