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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

Charles Dieter

Second Advisor

Nels Troelstrup


Despite grassland loss throughout South Dakota, pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) numbers have remained stable in parts of the state. With the loss of grasslands, it is possible winter wheat may be an alternate nesting habitat for pheasants. Winter wheat is predominately undisturbed throughout the pheasant’s nesting season, and undisturbed habitat provides an effective environment for nesting hens to avoid predators. The objectives of this study were to determine pheasant use of winter wheat habitats as nesting cover, success rates of nests in winter wheat vs. idle grassland, and brooding potential of winter wheat. During the winters of 2011 and 2012, hen pheasants were captured, affixed with radio transmitters, and released. The hens were monitored through the nesting season, and up to 3 chicks/brood were captured and affixed with radio transmitters to monitor chick survival. Data collected from 210 hens, 116 nests, 59 broods, and 83 chicks was used to calculate survival rates. Use of winter wheat habitats did not reduce survival rates of hens, nests, broods, or chicks. Hen survival varied by year during winter months, and was lowest during the winter of 2011. Constant survival best explained chick and brood survival, and was estimated at 0.945 and 0.980 respectively. Nest success was highest at the beginning of the nesting season (roughly April 1st) and lowest at the end (August 22nd). Mean clutch size was 10 eggs/clutch, and mean nest initiation date was May 16th. Nest-site selection analyses were made from 123 pheasant nests. I generated an equal number of random points, and compared analyses between nest sites and random locations. Pheasant nests were 2.8 times more likely to be in idle grasslands, 1.6 times more likely in spring wheat, and 1.5 times more likely in winter wheat. In proportion to availability on the landscape, idle grassland, spring wheat, and winter wheat were used for nest sites at higher proportions. This study indicates idle grasslands are the best habitat for nesting pheasants; however, pheasants will use winter wheat for nesting when it’s available. Winter wheat should be considered nesting habitat for pheasants, especially in areas where idle grasslands have declined.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ring-necked pheasant -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Ring-necked pheasant -- Ecology -- South Dakota
Ring-necked pheasant -- South Dakota -- Reproduction
Winter wheat -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 68-82)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2014 Brian J. Pauly. All rights reserved.