Toole, Benjamin Edwin (2005-08). Survival, seasonal movements, and cover use by lesser prairie chickens in the Texas Panhandle. Master's Thesis.
Lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus; LPC) numbers have
declined considerably in Texas since the early 1900s. As with other prairie chicken
species, reasons for declining ranges and numbers have been attributed primarily to
degradation and fragmentation of habitats. Until my study, no telemetry-based research
on LPC has been conducted in the Rolling Plains of the Texas Panhandle. I radio-tagged
and monitored LPCs in 2001 (spring??winter) and 2002 (spring) at a stable population in
a native rangeland landscape (Study Area I) and in a declining population in a
fragmented rangeland and agricultural landscape (Study Area II).
No significant (P < 0.05) differences in survival were detected for combined
study areas between years, or between study areas within years. Ranges and
movements, as independent criteria by season, sex, and age classes combined were
similar (P > 0.05) for both study areas.
Lesser prairie chickens predominately occupied native rangeland cover types
(>85%) compared to non-native rangelands at both study areas. Total invertebrate dry
mass for all orders differed between native rangeland and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sites at Study Area II. Over 32 times more dry mass of invertebrates
was collected at the native rangeland site than were collected at the CRP site.
Herbaceous cover differed significantly for grasses (P < 0.01), forbs (P < 0.01),
and bare ground (P < 0.01), but not for litter (P = 0.43) or woody cover (P = 0.63)
between study areas. The similar range sizes, movement distances, and cover use
observed for both study areas may provide insight into minimum area requirements for
LPCs within the Rolling Plains in the Texas Panhandle.