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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kent C. Jensen


Greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) (PC) and sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) (ST) ranges overlap in central South Dakota. Although the ranges of both species have been reduced during recent history, South Dakota is one of only a few states where their populations have remained stable. Survival, reproduction and habitat use data from these populations provide insight to important variables contributing to the dynamics and management of the populations on the Fort Pierre National Grassland (FPNG). Additionally, these data may shed light on efforts to reestablish populations in restricted portions of the greater prairie-chicken range. The objectives of this study were to estimate PC and ST brood habitat use, nest success, and hen and brood survival. To fulfill these objectives I radio-collared and monitored 62 PC and 38 ST hens and 26 PC and 21 ST broods on the FPNG during the breeding seasons of late March – August of 2003 – 2005. Habitat use was determined from 18 PC and 17 ST broods during 2004 and 2005. Overall nest success for PC was 0.80 (n = 50) and 0.72 (n = 36) for ST from 2003 – 2005. Breeding season hen survival during the three years of this study was 0.84 (n = 62) for PC and 0.80 (n = 38) for ST. Brood survival for PC was 0.83 (n = 26) and 0.89 (n=21) for ST. Chick survival for PC was 0.34 (n = 85) and 0.40 (n = 65) for ST. Chick survival was higher in 2005 than the previous two years, probably attributable to increased precipitation and warmer temperature patterns. PC broods utilized habitats with a mean vegetation height of 32 cm (n=8), and with ground cover of 18% grass and 10% forbs in 2004. During 2005, PC broods used habitats with a mean vegetation height of 38 cm (n = 10) and 18% grass and 5% forb ground cover. ST broods used habitats with a mean vegetation height of 43 cm during both 2004 (n = 8) and 2005 (n = 9). During 2004, ST broods utilized habitats with 14% grass and 20% forb ground cover, while in 2005 they used habitats with 17% grass and 4% forb ground cover. PC broods preferentially selected habitats composed of western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), green needlegrass (Nassella viridula) and Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus). They avoided habitats composed of smooth brome (Bromus inermis) and porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea). ST broods preferentially selected habitats composed of sweet clover (Melilotus spp.), other forb-dominated vegetation, and green needlegrass. They avoided habitats dominated by Japanese brome and smooth brome. High nesting success and survival rates found during this study are likely attributed to the vast grassland ecosystem and the implemented rotational grazing regime, both of which had multiple positive influences. Predators had to spend more time searching to find a nest or bird to prey on in larger unfragmented grasslands. The large expanse of grassland is maintained by a grazing regime that provided an ample food source of invertebrates and a mosaic of habitats needed for brood rearing hens.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Greater prairie chicken -- South Dakota -- Fort Pierre National Grassland -- Reproduction
Sharp-tailed grouse -- South Dakota -- Fort Pierre National Grassland -- Reproduction
Great prairie chicken -- Habitat -- South Dakota -- Fort Pierre National Grassland
Sharp-tailed grouse -- Habitat -- South Dakota -- Fort Pierre National Grassland


Includes bibliographical references (page 55-62)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2005 Mark A. Norton. All rights reserved.