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State of the Birds Report

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Resident Game Birds



• There are 19 native resident game bird species in the U.S., including grouse, ptarmigan, turkey, and quail. State wildlife resource agencies set
regulations for these species, which are not protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

• Half of the resident game bird species in the U.S. have more than 50% of their U.S. distribution on public lands. All of these species are
found in the West or in Alaska.

• Access to public lands provides hunting opportunities for millions of people each year.

• Public lands support 79% of the distribution of Gunnison Sage-Grouse, a species of high conservation concern, and 81% of the U.S. distribution of White-tailed Ptarmigan.

• Public lands play an important role for western quail and grouse, with the USFS and BLM responsible for the majority of lands occupied by these species. National Forests support more than 50% of the U.S. distributions of Dusky Grouse, Sooty Grouse, and Mountain Quail.

Image by Haven Barnhill

Conservation Successes

• Although some early declines of resident game bird species were attributed to overhunting, hunting regulations have removed this threat. State wildlife agencies now set hunting regulations (e.g., bag limits, season length) for resident game birds each year based on factors such as population trends, age and sex ratios, reproductive success, and density.

• Wild Turkeys were restored from a low of 30,000 in the 1920s to more than 7 million today, largely because of efforts on public lands. Beginning in the 1950s, public land management agencies trapped birds on public lands and transported them to public and private release sites across the nation. By 2004, after reintroduction efforts, regulated hunting, and habitat management, Wild Turkeys inhabited more than 99% of suitable habitat.

Conservation Challenges

• Although the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has endorsed range-wide conservation plans for the majority of resident game bird species (e.g., Northern Bobwhite, prairie grouse, Ruffed Grouse, western quail, Wild Turkey), funding and capacity are limited to implement priority objectives at scales that are relevant on
public lands.

• Public land managers must work with adjacent private entities to surmount the challenges of managing bird populations. For example, to restore Ruffed Grouse to 1980s levels, 31 million acres of young forest must be added to the current landscape; arguably all of these acres cannot be maintained by a single public landowner.

• Prairie grouse and both species of sage-grouse have elaborate and spectacular social and breeding systems. They require large blocks of habitat for display 

and nesting grounds, as well as habitat to support their widely dispersed populations throughout the annual cycle. Without effective and targeted management on large public lands within the range of these species, we are in danger of losing this spectacular element of our nation's birdlife.


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