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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Hay cutting and the survival of pheasants: a long-term perspective
Year: 1989
Author(s): Warner, R. E., Etter, S. L.
Source Title: Journal of Wildlife Management
Source Type: Journal
pages: 455-461
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: We documented the fates of 1,104 ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) nests in harvested and unharvested hayfields near Sibley, Illinois, from 1962 to 1972. A mean of 13 and 35% of nests in harvested and unharvested hay, respectively, hatched. Mortality rates of females and embryos were high when hay cutting coincided with the late stages of incubation. Dates when forage crops in the Midwest are harvested have gradually advanced since World War II, especially in the northern portions of the pheasant range where dairy and livestock production are prevalent. Over the past decade, the mean day of first cutting for alfalfa, the most widely planted hay cultivar in the Midwest, has been 3 June, about 10 days earlier than it was during the 1950’s. Mortality rates for pheasant nests found after the first cutting of hay near Sibley, Illinois, were used with mean dates of the first hay cutting for Illinois to compute indices of female and nest destruction for 1951-58 and 1977-87. Indices of pheasant destruction were lower (P < 0.01) for 1977-87, which suggests that mortality of embryos and females during haying operations is, on average, easing in the Midwest due to earlier cutting. The presence of small tracts of nest cover near hayfields, if carefully managed, could enhance pheasant reproduction.