CHAMPAIGN, IL. — Do female Greater Prairie-Chickens from Kansas successfully mate with males from Illinois? That’s a question researcher Wendy Schelsky of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) and her Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) colleagues are trying to answer.
As part of an ongoing recovery plan for the State Endangered Greater Prairie-Chicken, 150 male and 150 female chickens will be translocated from Kansas to Illinois in the coming years. Schelsky and her colleagues have been monitoring the success of the translocated birds using radio telemetry and are now trying to determine if the females from Kansas prefer males from Kansas and the success of eggs from different matings.
In this study, funded in part by a grant from the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund, paternity and hatching success will be determined for offspring of radio tagged females.
Typically only 10-30% of male Greater Prairie-Chickens get to mate, with the number of females being the limiting factor in population growth. If females are successfully breeding with Illinois males, future translocations may be able to focus on moving more females than males, saving time and money.
The Greater Prairie-Chicken is a native Illinois grouse that was once considered abundant across the prairie. Loss of prairie habitat to agriculture as well as nest parasitism by the introduced Ring-Necked Pheasant contributed to drastic declines. The Prairie-Chicken Foundation of Illinois was established in 1959 and since then more than 3500 acres of grasslands have been acquired and protected in Jasper and Marion Counties in an effort to preserve the Prairie-Chicken. Despite habitat protections, by 1990, there were fewer than 100 chickens remaining and egg success had dropped to 38% due to inbreeding depression. Aggressive pheasant control began in 1987 to decrease pressures from this exotic species and translocations of Greater Prairie-Chickens began in 1992.
Sources: Wendy Schelsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk, Jeffery W. 2004. A Plan for the Recovery of the Greater Prairie-Chicken in Illinois. University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. Office of Resource Conservation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Springfield, Illinois 72pp.