Preliminary Results of Upland Game Bird Brood Production Present Mixed Picture for 2009 in Wisconsin
MADISON – Upland game bird brood success was mixed in 2009 due to variable spring weather and habitat conditions, according to state wildlife managers.
Each year, Department of Natural Resources wildlife staff report the number and size of game bird broods they observe in the field from mid-June through late August. At the end of the survey period, these reports, known as the 10-Week Brood Survey, are complied and summarized by the wildlife research program.
“This year’s brood rearing conditions were slightly cooler and significantly dryer compared to last year,” said Scott Hull, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. “Statewide this year’s brood rearing season was on the whole better than 2008, but 2008 was a fairly poor year because of significant spring rain events.
“These surveys provide a rough estimate of game bird brood production. Combined with other spring surveys and harvest information it can help us determine the overall status of game birds in the state.”
The following are preliminary survey results for the turkey, ring-necked pheasant and ruffed grouse brood surveys.
Turkeys showed an 11 percent decrease in the number of broods seen per observer and no change in the size of the broods seen. In 2009, DNR field personnel averaged 0.034 turkey broods seen per hour, down from the 0.038 broods observed per hour in 2008. Three of the five DNR regions showed a decrease in broods observed in 2009 from 2008 levels, northern (minus 37 percent), southeast (minus 16 percent), and the west central (minus 62 percent), while increases were reported in the south central (70 percent) and the northeast (94 percent) regions. The average size of a brood seen in 2009 was 4.4 young per brood, exactly the same as in 2008.
“We expect brood production to vary regionally and even locally depending upon weather and habitat conditions,” said Hull. “The important thing to remember is that statewide turkey production in 2009 remains above the long-term mean.”
Pheasant broods observed per hour were up 25 percent compared to 2008 but remain below the long-term average. Average size of a brood was also up in 2009 with 5.3 young per brood in 2009 compared to 4.6 in 2008.
“Pheasant hunters should expect similar numbers on the landscape as in 2009. While brood production was up this year, overall pheasant numbers are down according to spring survey results”, according to Hull.
Ruffed grouse populations continue to do well as this popular game bird approaches the peak of its 10-year population cycle. The average number of broods seen per hour increased 31 percent from 2008 levels, up for the second year in a row. Brood size remained the same in 2009, 4.4 young per brood, as in 2008.
“There was also a statewide increase in the number of breeding ruffed grouse shown in the spring drumming counts,” Hull says. “Ruffed grouse hunters should expect a good season this year with brood production and overall grouse numbers up.”
More information is available on the Hunting in Wisconsin pages of the DNR Web site and in the 2009 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast.