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State of the Birds Report

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Game Birds

Managing Land for Upland Game Birds Helps All Birds


Spotlight on
         Resident Game Birds         

The majority of resident game birds are unable to fly long distances and usually move by running or walking. Some species may not be able to shift their distributions in response to changing habitats.

In a changing climate, White-tailed Ptarmigan in alpine areas may be unable to find appropriate habitats and may have nowhere else to go.

A number of resident game birds perform elaborate courtship displays on lekking grounds and are disrupted when vegetation changes occur. Western grouse and prairie-chicken populations are already fragmented and isolated because of habitat loss, causing concern about the effects of inbreeding. Increased drought in aridlands and grasslands could further stress these species. 

Image: Female Northern Bobwhite courtesy USFWS  

Observations and Predictions

Resident game birds in arctic and alpine habitats are likely to experience the greatest impacts due to their inability to shift their range. Ptarmigan depend upon arctic and alpine habitats that are already experiencing temperature increases. Continued change could result in vegetation shifts, leaving little or no habitat available in some locations. Loss of ptarmigan could cause a ripple effect among other wildlife by changing predator-prey relationships.

Poor dispersal ability increases vulnerability to climate change.

The inability to disperse is likely to negatively impact grouse in aridlands and grasslands. Changing fire management regimes and increasing invasion of nonnative vegetation (e.g. cheatgrass) in aridlands will negatively impact Gunnison and Greater sage-grouse. Because of their larger overall population sizes, forest grouse and western quail will experience range shifts, but may not experience large declines.

Key Steps

State agencies will need to adapt management strategies and increase coordination among states as bird populations shift . Monitoring programs that span entire ranges of game birds will be needed. Alternative energy projects will need to carefully consider the needs of grassland grouse and chickens.

Northern Bobwhite courtesy USFWS
Conservation in Action

Because resident game birds have large clutch sizes and many breed twice a year, populations may quickly rebuild if conditions are suitable. Existing management programs could be shifted as vegetative communities and land uses shift. For example, Farm Bill programs could expand acreage allocations of retirement programs and shift to new areas as agricultural production expands to new regions. Several resident game bird species currently benefit from single species regional initiatives where partnerships have been formed and are implementing conservation measures to reverse declines.   


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